Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Results Are In

After a week of waiting, and tenderly perching my glasses on the stitches on the bridge of my nose, the results are in. As you can see by the photo above, I purchased an interim nose in case the mole was indeed malignant and my proboscis needed removing. I am delighted to report that the Groucho Marx look will not be a necessity, nor will breathing through my mouth for the rest of my life, nor changing the photo on my Passport. With Halloween coming, I am sure I will find a use for the prosthesis.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Plan 'B'

I was greatly looking forward to my first hockey game of the season. Tonight I have the time and according to the schedule, the game at Calgary is supposed to be on TV. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, so there is no hockey tonight. I will pay some bills, but first two photos. The top photo is straight out of my camera, the second one altered for more of an artsy look. I cannot remember how many times I have taken a photo of a flower and after seeing it on my computer, discovered the variety of wildlife living on the blossom. I knew there were bees on the blossom, but the spider surprised me. Which means my house is probably full of them too and they have their way with me in the middle of the night.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Will I Fade?

Since I started blogging, almost two years ago, I have rarely missed posting at least once a day. I have never run out of photos, nor have I run out of ideas or things to say. I find that my inspiration comes easily when I am well rested and my life is firing on all eight cylinders. At other times it is a struggle. We have situations in our immediate family, as all families do, that are sapping me of mental energy and enthusiasm. Add to that a draining fatigue that has come over me as I live and work with constant pain only relieved by medication. The hope of seeing an end to it, finally, comes and goes. Any one of these circumstances by itself would be manageable, but when coming in a medley, the way they are, I wonder if I will take time off from blogging for a while. I very often will compose 5 or 6 posts in a row and then post date them, allowing me to take care of other things. Lately, I have been scrambling each day to come up with something, and have barely managed.
Blogging is a pleasure for me, a bit of a creative outlet, and a way for me to collect and organize my thoughts. You might say it is a way I have chosen to stave off the dull wits of old age that some are prone to. So, if I miss a day or two, here or there, it is not because I want to, or I am tired of doing it, or I have run dry, but because life throws us curves every so often and takes the zest out of living. To use a vehicular metaphor, I need an oil change, a tune-up, and a new set of tires, and then I will be more than ready to continue the journey. Right now, I feel I am in neutral and somebody is trying to shift me into reverse.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Manitou Beach

No photo today, but another story in my collection of boyhood memories.

My world, as a child, was actually very small, but one of my very favourite places in that world was Manitou Beach. The sights, the smells, the memories, and the experiences of this unique place are as fresh in my mind as this mornings home made blueberry muffins. I loved everything about that salty place, my mom hated everything about what she called ‘that wretched hole’.
It all started during my dad’s childhood. His father would take his family there in summer and rent a cottage for a month, sometimes two, where the children would play in the parks and swim in the lake and in the pool. For him, the childhood memory was as good, if not better than mine, so, naturally, he wanted his own children, and his wife, to experience the joy of Manitou as he had. It was only a one hour drive from Lanigan. But to see and experience Manitou in the 50’s and 60’s was an exercise in disbelief and incredulity. Thinking back, I cannot blame my mother one bit for hating the place. Let me explain.

We were not sure of the history of the location, but after reading a weatherworn sign on the beach, we had a small understanding that this place had a history with Native Indians before the white man settled the prairies. They had apparently come to camp there and to take in the healing waters. Manitou Lake is a small body of water just north of Watrous Sask. It has a uniquely high mineral content and as a result, the buoyancy is similar to the Dead Sea and the mineral makeup of the water actually promoted healing of cuts, sores and a variety of skin conditions. As kids, all we knew was that it was very, very salty. After enjoying the waters, if one did not shower off thoroughly, the salt would dry on the skin and in the hair and leave a white crystalline residue. It was a particular problem in the hair as the hard water of the prairies was not the best with which to clean hair in the first place. Shampoo would only coagulate and make matters worse.
The town of Watrous was normal enough and is not much changed today. The little resort area of Manitou, beside the lake, had a touristy feel, and does today, but back then the tourists were mostly elderly and the resort atmosphere was mostly a left over from the turn of the century. I doubt there was a single structure in Manitou that had seen even $5 worth of upgrades in the last 50 years. As we drove in from the east, the first sign of anything unusual were the white salty marsh and mud flats. As we approached the residential area, there were old, dilapidated cottages on the beach, and more substantial homes across the road, but still in a state of disrepair. A little further on were the tacky little so called restaurants, fish and chip joints and whatever was on the menu for that day. You knew you had arrived when the largest structure of the village appeared on a rise across the road from the main beach. It was the public swimming pool. Next to it, separated by a side street, was a private spa. Both of these buildings were quite large and ornate, but had weathered badly and were in need of paint and repair, both inside and out. Perhaps they had at one time been white.
We would park the car on the street, on the beach side and immediately the smell of French Fries and vinegar would fill our nostrils, and activate our saliva glands, and of course, the whining and pleading for ‘chips’ would begin. No trip to Manitou was complete without a cardboard container of the greasy delicacies along with a good dousing of vinegar. It was the one thing my mother reluctantly admitted to enjoying. There was a ‘chip stand’ on the beach and also one in the pool, which opened to both the outside and the inside of the building. The pool ‘chip stand’ had the best chips, but only because they used the less aged frying fat.
I can only remember swimming in the lake one time. We did not like it because the water was cold and the stones on the beach hurt our shoe pampered feet. My only recollection was that it seemed cleaner and fresher than the pool and there was more room to splash and play. So, we would go through the ritual of trooping to the pool, getting our admission tickets, and trying one last time to talk mom into coming into the pool with us. We knew it was futile. She had made up her mind the very first time she laid eyes on the bacteria ridden place.
We would enter from the brightly sunlit outdoors, and squint our way to the dressing rooms. The only light in the chalet-like structure seemed to come from skylights planted high in the ceilings. The dressing rooms were abysmal in every sense of the word, and it was this more than anything that turned my mom’s stomach. After her first time, and I don’t even remember if she completed her first time, there was no doubt in her mind that we would die of horrible diseases if we touched anything in those cubicles. Even as a kid, I remember being disgusted, but it was something easily overlooked when the reward of a good swim was just around the corner. There was a labyrinth of hallways and corridors and much confusion regarding male and female quarters. On more than one occasion I caught an unsightly glimpse of white female flesh as I rushed down the wrong hallway. The floors were covered in hair, salt slime, and crushed, partly decomposed ‘chips’. When you found one of those cubby-holes in which to change, there was a wooden grate on the floor, soaked and never dried out, with many years accumulation of briny drippings from countless bodies. I was loathe to take my shoes and socks off and put my feet to the floor, but it had to be done. It was cold, clammy, and slimy. It took me only minutes and after stuffing my meagre belongings into an open unsecured locker, I raced back through the rabbit warren of hallways and found, at last, what I had come for.
The pool itself was divided into a cold and a warm section. The first few times we were there, I was relegated to the warm pool because I did not know how to swim. It was shallow and full of elderly people. It was a rectangular section of the main pool, cordoned off with concrete retaining walls, and on one of these walls was a bank of tall curved metal pipes, each with a spray nozzle at the high end, spewing out steamy hot water. The really old people sat under this perpetual hot shower and did not move, many of them indeed dead, or at least, so the rumour went. When the magical waters of the Manitou were heated, they not only took on additional healing powers, they stank to high heaven! The hot pool was definitely for sissies and I had to get out. It was too hot, boring and smelly, and watching the fun over the wall gave me motivation to want to learn to swim. A revelation came to me as I sat there, in the water, having suddenly to pee. The prospect of walking back through the labyrinth to a cold filthy washroom and standing in front of a stained urinal with a mat of curly hair on the floor, gave me the idea to just do it where I stood. Who would know. So, with a warm flood of guilty relief, I fouled a pool for the first time in my life. The amazing thing was that not one single person looked at me funny as if to say, “What on earth do you think you are doing!”
And that is when the revelation hit me. If I was able to pull that off, what about all these other people. The old folks rarely stepped out of the pool and yet I was sure that nature called them too. I connected that idea to the fact that the pool stank, and that it was actually very yellow! That was when I stepped out and never went back, to the warm pool. The thought came and left very quickly that my mom might actually be right.
So, I and my sister Gaye graduated to the big cold pool and with our dad supervising, we began our ‘swimming lesson’. The buoyancy was actually so strong that you could float with your shoulders and head completely out of the water. One had to be stricken with a rare affliction of paralysis in order to be incapable of swimming in those conditions. But, leave it to us. Because of the buoyancy, Gaye’s centre of gravity forced her upper body over, and her floating lower body came up. It was a sort of inverted float, head down and feet up. My dad let go of my hand and tried to rescue her, and as he did so, the same strange laws of physics took over my body and I did the same thing. Now he had two floundering rats, pulled up above the water, a grip on one arm of each kid. Did I mention the effects of salt water on the eyes and nose? It is severe to say the least. One of the two deadly sins at Manitou was in regards to the burning and stinging of the water in the eyes, nose and throat. What ever it took, do not get it in your eyes, nose, or throat. Ears were OK. Needless to say, we both had volumes of the salty brine in all our orifices and we were gasping for breath and were sure we were going to die. If my Mother’s prediction were ever to come true, it would be now, considering the gallons of the foul liquid we swallowed. I suppose we made quite a scene because dad got very disgusted and mom came running from the spectator’s gallery, ‘chips’ flying, to help revive her dearly beloved children. It was probably a first for Manitou, two near drownings in the span of a minute. Unheard of for a facility that had prided itself in never needing a lifeguard.
Our swimming for the day was over. We showered and joined mom and the babies in the sunshine outside and dad finished what he had come to achieve, a fun time in the cold pool.
Not much was said on the way home, except rumbling from my mother about never going back to ‘that place’. I remember having a bout of nausea from an overdose of grease and salt, aggravated by vinegar. I must give my dad credit for persistence because were back at Manitou a few weeks later.
With my bad experience behind me, I jumped in with both feet and with a little coaching from my friend, who’s family came with us this time, I caught on quite quickly and was very soon in the deep end, feeling quite confidant and comfortable. The trick was to stay upright. Sinking was not an issue. I tried not to glance over to where my mom was sitting in the spectator’s area, but did catch some severe motions out of the corner of my eye. Something about pointing to the shallow end. My dad gave me great encouragement and seemed to be proud of me, which was quite a change from the shame and embarrassment of last time. I watched him work the rings, a series of ropes hanging from the rafters with handholds on the ends, dangling 6 ft. above the water. The trick was to swing out and over the water, catching one ring after another until you reached the far side of the pool. He was always the best at it. I was most proud of him when he jumped off the high dive. He could not dive, but had no fear of jumping off the 10 ft. board and then the 20 ft. There was another board tucked high in the rafters, up where the skylights were, with a little home made sign that said 25 ft. I saw him climb up there one time and jump off. I was not that proud of him but only scared. I had only ever seen someone jump off that perch one time and it was a young kid. I think it really frightened him because he never even talked about it after.
Because the pool was so old, it needed some sort of maintenance in the winter months. The concrete pool was cracked and falling apart, and the method of repair was great gobs of tar which would seal the cracks and prevent the water from seeping into oblivion. When the tar warmed in the summer months, occasional pieces would float to the surface and the swimmers would collect them, lump them together, and throw them like balls. The staff and management did not like this at all. My friends and I did it all the time. I remember one time I found one and was just about to grab it when my buddy stopped me and told me what it really was. On closer inspection, I saw that he was right. I could not believe it until I remembered the time a few years back when I had relieved myself in the warm pool. Why not take it to its logical conclusion? Some people had no scruples. So we skirted around that area and continued to have fun. On the way home that night, I thought I would gross out my mom and sisters. I told them of the actual turd I had seen in the pool that day. My dad quickly interjected and explained about the tar business. He knew the goods but did not want to add fuel to my mom’s fire about diseases. And that is how the second deadly sin came to be. Never, under any circumstances, play with tar in the pool at Manitou.
Manitou Beach was not just about the water, but a swim was included with every trip. It was usually a Sunday afternoon social event and we would go with or meet friends for a picnic in the park after the swim. While the moms were setting up the picnic buffet, we kids would climb the steepest ravines we could find, getting dusty and dirty in the process. The lake was a runoff for the surrounding low hills and the little gullies made good picnic areas because of the shade the trees provided. There were wooden tables, BBQ pits, and horseshoe pits. It was at one of these events where I learned to throw horseshoes at a special area for kids where the pits were a little closer together. The shoes were very heavy and we could only throw them so far before they went totally out of control. I remember one of the kids needing a few stitches to his head when he caught a shoe just above his ear, running around not paying attention to all the flying horseshoes.
When all the food was laid out, we would stampede to the tables and with our ravenous appetites eat everything in site. There was almost always potato salad, jello salad, buns and cold cuts, or if it was not too dry, some adult would light a fire and we would have hot dogs. For dessert, there was home made cookies, chocolate cake, or watermelon. It was always a treat when several families would pool their resources and we could pick from a greater variety of foods. I still seemed to always gravitate to my mom’s cooking as she was the best there was. We would pile into the car after an exciting and very tiring day, and fall asleep before we were half way home.
My Dad discovered golf at Manitou. Where the land rose above the lake bed, on the road to Watrous, there was a 9 hole golf course set among a straggly stand of poplar and willow trees. The grass fairways were always parched and brown as there was no adequate supply of fresh water for irrigation. The ground was rock hard and when the ball was struck well, it rolled forever. The greens were actually browns. Again, because of a lack of water, grass greens were an impossibility, so the putting surface was a bed of oiled sand. A hemp 'welcome mat', with a rope tied to it, was dragged from the ball to the hole to make an even surface. Because the sand was oiled, it did not blow away in the constant wind and it made a much more cohesive and firm surface on which to putt.
My first golf experience was here, in the heat and dust of the Watrous Golf Course. A men’s set of golf clubs consisted of a driver, a 3 wood, a putter, and a 3, 5, 7, and 9 iron. My dad and his friends would play ahead of us and the sons would each get a 5 iron with which to drive, chip and putt. I played golf like that for a few years until I received my first full set as a reward for all the work I did in the store after school and Saturdays. I thought I had really ‘arrived’ when I swung that red plaid golf bag over my shoulder and strutted around the golf courses.
The Watrous course had a unique feature. The land had been chosen because it was too rocky for agriculture. In fact, the rocks were huge flat boulders that were just visible above the surface of the fairway. When a golf ball hit one of these, it would careen in any direction and take on an added dimension of acceleration. We never minded hitting our ball into the bushes or tall grass because this was an opportunity to find more to fill our bags. We always came out of the bushes with more than what we were looking for. My most memorable shot was a line drive toward a tall dead tree that was a natural hazard left deliberately in the fairway. I hit the tree square and hard. There was no bounce, and my ball seemed to just disappear. Upon close inspection, we noticed a small woodpecker hole near the top of the tree, and we could only assume that my ball had hit the hole square on and was lodged in the tree. I wondered how many more balls were up there. Golf at Watrous was the beginning of my life long love affair with the sport.
In 2001, I went back to Manitou with my wife, anxious to show her the fabled location of my boyhood adventures. We found it with no difficulty, but what was difficult for me was all the changes. I suppose very little stays the same as time progresses, but after just wanting to reinforce my memories, I discovered that Manitou had become quite a nice little place. The old Chalet Pool was no more, probably condemned and torn down years ago, and in its place, and further down the road was a new and very modern Spa and pool, part of a hotel/restaurant complex. It was pricey and looked like a destination resort. Of course we had to at least have a swim.
I was let down as we entered the change rooms. They were clean and fresh smelling, very well lit, and there was no access to the ladies change rooms from where I was. The floors were spotless and dry, the lockers modern and very secure. There was no lingering odour of French fries and vinegar and every surface was freshly painted or scrubbed. As I walked out to the pool area, I detected a faint aroma that brought back a flood of memories. It was that heated briny water, but minus the urine overtones. I was somewhat heartened to notice that there was still a hot and cold section, and the warmer water was indeed a little on the yellow side. My wife and I entered the water at the same time and I was excited to show her the buoyancy of the salt water. She had thought I had been exaggerating all these years, but now she saw for herself that you could indeed float with your head and shoulders clear out of the water.
The rings were gone, there was no diving board, there was no perch 25 ft. up in the rafters from which to make a death defying leap, and there was no spectator’s area from which my mom would be looking out for us. And fortunately, we didn't catch any diseases this time either because there were no chunks of tar floating just under the surface.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mom and Dad

I see my father almost every day now. When he lived on his own, I would see him once or twice a week. He is still in the hospital and is lonely so I go visit when I can. He is not mobile so they are keeping him there for a while yet.
We run out of things to talk about and there is much repetition. We have spent a tremendous amount of time together in our lives and I have heard all his stories many times over. He knows nothing of his situation, other than the fact that he is lying in the hospital, and it seems he does not care either. He is very accepting of his situation and takes life one day at time, as he has for quite some time now.
I tried, tonight, to see him as the young man he once was. Pictured above, he is around 20 years of age, as is my mom in the next photo. They were a good looking couple. He was from a prominent business family, and she from a well known and respected farming family. He always told me he was looking for a wife from 'good stock'. They both married into good families and I have been proud to be a part of both of them, not really having a favourite side. My parents took time and care to show us that we were part of a larger family, a bigger picture, and even now, I have cousins that are not that interested in their family and I find it strange. That is one gift my parents gave to us children.
My dad's seven siblings are all still living but only one has come to see him. They are all elderly and like my dad, do not travel easily or well. He would not go to visit any one of them either, so it is fitting. If my father's future is in a nursing home, I certainly hope he makes some friends there or it will indeed be a lonely existence.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Under the Knife

I was getting a chiropractic adjustment a few months ago when the good Dr. saw the flat, black mole on the bridge of my nose, right where my glasses rest. He commented that it looked suspicious and that was all the motivation I needed to go see my GP about it. It was in my vision when I was not wearing glasses, but other than that, it was only a bother when people would see it and say something about it. The GP did not hesitate in referring me to a specialist and two weeks later I was in the plastic surgeon's office, under a bright light and a magnifying glass. The young intern sidekick commented that he would 'lob' it off and be done with it, but I was not to worry, as in his opinion, it was quite harmless, and he even had a 25 syllable name for it which rhymes with blasphemous.
Today was the day and I was one of the first on the list for Dr. Brown (he is white). The shiny new hospital was encouraging as I do not like the thought of going into the operating room without an infection and then leaving with one. He lay me down on the table and then, after some banter and small talk, said that this was the part where I would not like him any more. He got that right. The needle came down from between my eyes and ran along the bone on the top of my nose, just under the skin, and injected red hot lava around my eyes and nose. I told him he could take a lesson from my dentist, but after having had kidney stone pain, I toughed it out. It was soon frozen and then the cutting/sawing motions and sounds began. It sounded much like cutting the gristle off the end of a chicken drumstick. I requested a face lift 'while he was at it', but he refused. He had only slotted 10 minutes for me. I think that was just an excuse.
He stitched it up, put a little tape on it, and sent me on my way. Other than having an eyelid that no longer blinked, I was fine. Until the freezing came out. I no longer wanted to wear my glasses at that point and even now, I can only wear them at the end of my nose like an absent minded professor.
Now I await the biopsy report and consider the possibility of perhaps living without a nose. Who knows?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pumping Gas

His name was Ken Elliot and he asked permission from my father if I could work at his gas station. I was only 12 years old but he had seen me working in my dad's grocery store and I suppose he saw that I was a responsible type and he was looking for cheap help. I was in charge of his bulk oil and fuel division when he was absent from the premises, which was quite often, because he delivered fuel to the local farmers. My biggest fear was that I would pour diesel fuel into a gas tractor or sell 'marked gas' to someone who did not qualify. The easiest part of the selling was when a farmer would come in and ask for a case of Havoline 20-30 engine oil and let me put it on his tab. That was like selling groceries.
I remember one lazy hot summer day, Ken and I were sitting in the shade of a big tree out front, sipping Cokes and waiting for customers. He told me that he was so grateful to be alive. And then he told me the story of when he had been a rear gunner on a Lancaster Bomber in the Second World War. They had just dropped their bombs somewhere over Germany and were heading back to Britain when they were swarmed by fighter planes. Their bombers were strafed again and again but somehow they all managed to limp back home, some with small fires on board and many pieces missing. He had been concerned for his best friend when he saw his plane lagging behind, with smoke trailing from one engine. They got back and waited for the all the stragglers to land. When his friends plane landed, it was with great relief that Ken ran to the tarmac. The plane looked like a piece of Swiss cheese with all the holes punched in it. The fire was out by now and as Ken raced to the rear of the Lancaster where his friend was also a tail gunner, his heart fell as he saw the hatch down and blood pouring out. His friend was unrecognisable and then he said, "they removed his body with a shovel."
I never forgot it and I can still see the look on his face as he told the story. Maybe he had never shared that with anyone before, but somehow I knew the importance of what I had just witnessed and I felt a closeness to him that I had never even felt toward my Dad.
He was a very kind and compassionate man to work for , and even though it was only for a summer, he and I always had a knowing smile for each other after that day under the shade tree, sipping cokes.

Monday, September 21, 2009


An 'up shot' of one of our Sunflowers.
Fear and paranoia have become a standard tactic for various entities to achieve their goals. Muslim terrorists destroyed the peace and tranquility of American life when they took out the Trade Towers. Today, security everywhere has been ramped up and we treat it as a necessary inconvenience.
The global warming industry uses fear very nicely by telling us that climate change is all our fault and for a fairly hefty price, we can control the climate so we don't all die.
Worksafe BC and the insurance companies have struck fear into hearts that we will die if we do not have strict rules and regulations in place for our own good.
And now the pharmaceutical companies will make billions because they have been instrumental in scaring the world into believing that if they do not get the swine flu vaccine shot, they will die, and yes, we will all die.
We, like sheep, follow along because everybody else is doing it.
Flu shots do not have a good track record. They are rarely current and in many cases make the recipient sick, and in some cases will kill. In 1979 there was a small outbreak of swine flu and the US government instituted a hasty flu shot program. Here is what happened. More people died from the vaccination than from the flu, and there were 500 cases of GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological brain disorder) directly attributed to the flu shot.
Another great concern is the little ingredient in the flu vaccine called squalene. It is a naturally occurring enzyme which hyper stimulates the immune system. We have this enzyme in the mucous membranes of our body, the first defense we have against intruding germs and viruses. The problem is, this enzyme is not found in the blood stream and the flu shot would put it there. The results in some lab animals is the immune system starts to attack the body and autoimmune diseases such as lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, ms and Lou Gehrig's begin to appear. This is a dirty little secret that is not generally publicized. There was a secret letter sent to 600 British neurologists a few weeks ago outlining some of the dangers and a particular alert to watch for increased cases of GBS.
This risk is weighed against feeling feverish and fluish for a day or two and then getting on with your life.

I will not be getting this flu shot when it is offered to me.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I once made a comment on this blog that my mother had a wonderful Rhododendron bush that would bloom profusely every year and she would never fail to call me to come quickly and take a picture before its peak was past. I must confess that I am like her in that every year, I take photos of many of the same things. I see these magnificent 14 ft. Sunflowers and I think that I could not have ever seen them so beautiful before and I must take a photo which will be the best photo I have ever taken of a Sunflower. The same goes for the Roses, the Morning Glories, the Poppies, the Cosmos, ........ and on and on. For me, they are new every season.
Lamentations 3: 22 - 23 says
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
When I go into the garden and see the flowers with new eyes each year, I should be reminded that likewise, I should see God's great love and compassion for us as new every morning also. There are things in this world that we never grow tired of, probably to remind us that God never grows tired of us, and we should see him with fresh eyes and fresh hearts every morning.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I watched him closely, as he talked to me, in a half sitting position. I could not see his father in him, but I most certainly could see a resemblance to his grandfather. The above photo is of my great grandfather and my dad resembles him in his old age. My dad is not well, his eyes are sunken, he has lost weight, and is very weak, but he reminded me of the time I met my great grandfather, Mr. John A. Friesen.

I had been to see him before, but one occasion sticks in my mind as the time I connected with him. There were a number of relatives in his home and it was a warm summer day. The conversation was about me that day as I was a bit of a celebrity. My friend and I had just won a singing competition and had been on TV, which was quite a novelty back then. John A. asked me if I could sing for the gathered crowd. Being quite shy, I declined, and besides, my partner was not there and I was not a soloist. So my great grandfather took me aside and offered me a silver dollar if I would go out onto the porch and sing, where, he assured me, nobody would hear me. I knew I was being conned, but I really wanted that silver dollar, so I consented.

I sang "The Happy Wanderer" out on the porch, to nobody in particular, and when I was done, thunderous applause broke out in the sitting room, just on the other side of the screen door. I sheepishly went back in and walked straight to the thin old man. With an endearing smile and a pat on the shoulder, he placed his clenched fist into my waiting hand and dropped the silver dollar, still very warm from the inside of his pocket. I felt a connection. He approved of me, a little kid, and he the great patriarch of the Friesen Clan.

He lived to 99 or there abouts. As I stared down at my dad today, I wondered if he would live that long. If he does, he has a long way to go. He is only 87.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Odds and Ends

If someone suddenly told me I was woman, I would better understand what Caster Semenya is going through right now. She was the African athlete who excelled at running in the latest world track and field competitions. She seemed too good to be true so her gender was tested and it turns out she is a bit of both. Her and her parents are devastated as she was raised as a girl all her life. She is on suicide watch. I have met some people in my life who should have had one of those tests, but they were not athletes so it was not a priority.
How would you like to be mauled by a bear and then on the way to the hospital die in a car accident? It happened back east yesterday. It was her husband driving a bit recklessly after having pulled his wife from the Bear's jaws. It is difficult to imagine the man's emotional state after going through an experience like that.
Hockey season starts soon, my one and only reason for owning a TV. I think this year I will erect a Plexiglass barrier, similar to the one in the arena, to protect my investment from flying popcorn and slippers. I find watching the Canucks either very entertaining and fulfilling or extremely frustrating. There is no in between here.
I see the Swine Flu kits being sent to some of the remote native villages include body bags. Strange that they would find this offensive. It is called reality. Kind of funny though because it is like ordering an instruction manual for your newly acquired chain saw and the booklet comes with a prosthetic arm. It is all about expectations.
I need a weekend really badly and I hear that there is one around the corner. I hope to participate in it. I hope you do too.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


No, this post is not about the universe. That is the name of these flowers.

My plate is very full these days and I do not really have time to do this, but some of you have been asking and I can kill a whole bunch of birds with one stone here. Not that I like killing birds, but I like getting my 8 hours of sleep so I have to work efficiently here. Work is crazy like it is every fall, but I am still able to squeeze in visits to my dad in hospital and meetings with siblings regarding his situation. No definitive word yet on why his condition is what it is, but some pieces are starting to come together. Renal failure for one and perhaps pneumonia. His delirium has more or less passed but he is very weak and cannot get up on his own or even stand when not assisted. X-ray results, on his very sore leg, will arrive tomorrow. Meanwhile he is being well cared for in our spanking new hospital in a private and spacious room. Assessment for some type of care to come. He was well rested tonight and apart from hearing problems (nothing new) we had a good and normal conversation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Late Summer Rose

These days of late summer are wonderful. The small amount of fruit we have on our trees is ripening, the patio tomatoes are sweet and delicious, and the Morning Glories are the best we have ever had. And tucked among the fading flower beds is this neglected rose bush that decided to throw out its best blossom of the year. We have not figured it out, but the roses had no aphids on them this year and did very well. Growing very close to the sidewalk, I am always surprised that the buds are not picked by the many people who walk by.
These wonderful late summer days, however, are being marred. I had to call the paramedics on Saturday to take my father to the hospital. Over the previous three days he had taken a sudden downward turn in his energy levels and feeling of well being. He is very weak and confused at the moment and the doctors are looking into it. He is not capable of standing on his feet and until he can do so, he will not be going back to his home. Naturally, we are all concerned, but fortunate to have a health care system that takes care of everyone, young or old. Right now the future looks very uncertain for him. Of course, we all live one day at a time, as we never know what may befall us, but right now we are just a little more aware of the truth of that statement.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Warm September

The garden is still awash with saturated colours.
A little Adobe Photoshop fun with a Morning Glory, but really, how can one improve on nature?

The purple Sweet Peas are catching the late afternoon light.
From gardens to politics, but that is how my mind works. The Montreal Gazette had an article on political polls last week regarding the threatened election. It showed in a very convincing manner, that the Liberals had no chance of winning the next election with a majority, so why bother forcing one at all. Jack Layton says he is not convinced that an election in necessary. Ignatief says he can no longer support the Harper agenda. The Conservatives say "bring it on".
They all have an agenda and it has nothing to do with governing in the best interests of the people. It is about getting and holding power. Meanwhile, we as the tax payers of Canada, have a very real prospect of spending another $200 million on an election that will bring yet another minority government, the same thing we have now. Just when the weather in Ottawa is cooling down, the election rhetoric is heating up. Are you as tired of it as I am?

Monday, September 14, 2009

View From the Neighbours

Our neighbours in Oroville just sit and fish all day long.
This is their view as they sit and fish.
We are often so busy watching our neighbours that we forget the fact that they may be busy watching us too. We are fortunate in that we live in a neighbourhood where we watch out for each other and that does require some 'spying'. Knowing habits and schedules helps alert us to unusual goings on. From the odd false alarm, our neighbours know that we have an alarm system, but they also know that if the horn does not quit within 20 seconds, there is a problem. This has paid off at least once.
But then there is the snooping that goes on. We are constantly confronted with a very messy and weedy backyard to our west. We have gone so far as to plant shrubs and trees to block the ugly view and it has worked, at least in summer when the leaves are verdant. These neighbours sit a little higher than us in elevation so we know that they see more of us than we see of them. At least they have a good view, but to date, it has not inspired them.
We often wonder what our neighbours know about us from simple observation. We are not trying to send any messages, but I am sure our day to day routine tells them something. Whatever the signals are, they are all very friendly toward us and us to them. The true test was last winter when we had continual snowfall which required endless snow removal. The spirit of community really came out and we found out just what a blessing it is to have good neighbours who don't sit around and fish all day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Feeling at Home

When I was a kid growing up in Saskatchewan, I did not have a church home. I attended the Lutheran church for their Daily Vacation Bible School program, but during the rest of the time, if I ever went, it was to the United Church. I had few friends who attended church and I only remember it as something we occasionally did on a Sunday. The Catholic church was in sight of our home and was the best attended in our Ukrainian community, but I do not remember ever stepping inside. When we visited grandparents, we got to my parents roots and would attend their home town Mennonite churches. Being scattered like that, in my church experience, deprived me of the great experience of having a church home. I first felt that when, at age 16, we moved to BC and started attending the Olivet Mennonite Church on Langdon Street. The people there were very friendly and I not only fit in right away, but became involved. Five years later, I left for Ocean Falls (see Ocean Falls in the 'Labels') and there attended both the Anglican and the United, but only very sporadically, with two or three old ladies and the priest (Anglican) and the pastor (United). The United Church pastor bragged that he could prepare 6 months of sermons without opening his Bible and I knew at that point that I did not belong there.
Back home, with my new family, we searched for a church home but it was not until 1986 when we first started attending Northview Community Church that we finally felt we were home. Today, many years later, we still love our church and have stood by her through many highlights and many struggles. It is home, where we are nourished, where we worship, where we fellowship, and where we serve. We look forward to our times spent there and never try to 'duck out' of church like in the old days. I cannot imagine life without being part of Northview and the many friends we have made there over the years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Aging Parent

It seems that those times in my life when I was not somehow responsible for someone else, were few and far between. When they came, I did not appreciate them enough and savour waking in the morning with only my own concerns and issues to deal with.
I visited with my customer over a cup of coffee this afternoon and she was happy that her kids never had children. She was never, and will never be, a grandmother, even though she is more than 80 years old. She said that because her husband came from a large family, he would have liked more children and of course grandchildren, but for her, she was happy to look after only herself and her husband. Her mother died at a young age so she really never had to care for anyone after her two children grew up.
We have raised our children and now are involved in our grand kids lives and it is truly wonderful. But lately we have been entering new territory. An aging parent requires some of the same care that a child does, but it is more intense and feels a bit uncomfortable. Decisions will soon have to be made and they will be difficult. We honour, love, and respect our parents and really do owe them a debt of gratitude for having cared for and nurtured us when we were requiring help. Now the roles are reversed. I have blogged about this before but it is getting closer. It troubles me as it comes when there are other issues in our own lives that require attention. Of course, our lives will always have these types of challenges, but often the timing really sucks.
My father saw his own dad only once in the last fifteen years of his life. Now, I cannot treat him as he did his dad. My criticism of his behaviour would then be hypocritical. Neither do I want to abandon him, but his attitude about his past behaviour is very flippant. Does he deserve to be cared for by his kids? But it is not about deserving. None of us deserves God's unconditional love, and yet he cares for us. We cannot but do the same for those who were entrusted to us.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Le Chateau Avian

As is often the case, the photo today has little to do with the topic of this post. It is just one of the quirky landmarks in our Oroville neighbourhood.

One of my faithful readers, Jack, gave me a 'heads up' on a great video clip the other night. It was late, but I watched all 43 minutes of it and did not regret one second of the time spent.

I recently read a tremendous faith building book entitled "The Case for a Creator" by Lee Strobel. Chapter by chapter, he discusses scientific issues with the brightest minds in the scientific arena and dishes out some pretty convincing proofs for Intelligent Design and more specifically, God. In one chapter, the uniqueness of the earth and its position in the galaxy is discussed and I came to realised how intricately orchestrated the systems both on and off our planet are, and how if even one variant were changed in the slightest, we would not be able to exist in a very hostile universe. This information was still fresh in my mind as I watched the video and it truly held me spellbound.

Maybe you could turn off the TV tonight or suspend the Face book chatter for a few minutes and be amazed as I was by this awesome video clip. Let me know what you think about it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Here it Comes

Oh no! Here it comes. Just when you thought you could relax for a few more years, talk is in the air. Do those Liberals not take polls before flapping their jaws about another election? What are they thinking? Canadians will go to the polls if they have to, but you can be assured that many will vote against the Liberals if for no other reason than it is a bone-headed idea to have a fourth election in five years. The Liberals are only full of criticisms and have presented no clear plan to do any better than the Conservatives. Mr. Ignatief, the 'All American' Liberal leader, says he will get Canada out of its huge deficit and debt hole without raising taxes. When asked how he would do that, the best he could come up with was, "Wait and see." This is a joke. Is he not the one that was calling for more government 'stimulus' spending? And now the G20 nations are calling for the same thing and he purports to be more of a 'world class leader'. As Prime Minister of Canada he would have to go along with that insanity and our deficit and debt hole would only get bigger.
Debt and deficit are only reduced two ways. Cut spending, and/or raise taxes. Liberals have never cut a penny from spending in their political lives so that only leaves them with tax increases. 70% of a countries economic activity comes from consumer spending and we, the consumer can only spend when we have discretionary income. Tax us to death and see how much money we have left to spend.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Old Bones

If you come across this scene on your way to visit us in Oroville, you will know that you are very close.

My intention for this blog has never been to use it as a vehicle for catharsis but I believe it happens anyway, inadvertently. As the rains of September have returned today (I am writing this on the Saturday of the Labour Day weekend) it has put me in an introspective mood and has also triggered some self pity. There is an inherent sadness in the Autumn season as the days grow shorter, the flowers fade, the bright sunny fun days at the lake are over, and one settles down to a routine that leads to winter and the grey days that we will eventually try to escape. Perhaps the sadness stems from regrets. Regrets that another summer is passing and we may not have taken full advantage of the long days and many activities that are at our doorstep. Regrets that we are getting another year older and there may have been something we could have done this summer that we will not be able to do next year. I am certainly feeling that this year, as I have been restricted in my activities to the point where we have more or less stayed home all summer. It has always been a yearning for me to travel in the fall when the colours are ever changing, the days still warm and sunny, and the air a little crisp and cooler. Photography, for me, in the autumn, is a pure delight and there are places I have never been too in the fall. Again this year, that yearning will be put on hold. Although the progress with the sore hip is very slowly going in the right direction, it still limits me to only a few minutes at a time driving a vehicle. There is another pressing issue. There seems to be a lot of work this fall as folks are trying to get their home renovations done before the deadline for the tax credits arrives. I have to keep in mind, now that I am over 60, that there may not be many years left when I can earn decent money and put in a long day. So, as the expression goes, I will make hay while the sun shines. Since age 35, I have been planning, saving, and investing for my retirement. Things have gone a little askew, but there is still hope. And as long as there is still hope, I can look forward to next year. In the meanwhile, I will lay me down by the window and watch the rain come down, and try to count my blessings and not my losses. I am, really, like a spoiled child who has no idea how well off he is.
There. Now I feel much better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hollyhock Quotes

I got a kick out of the headlines last week regarding the latest adventures of the space station that is sucking billions of dollars from planet Earth. This effort has to be kept front and center in the public's view, to generate enough interest so that the funding keeps coming. The headline read "Near miss in outer space" Apparently there was a chunk of space junk from a defunct rocket that was hurtling through space. Like our roads and ditches here in Canada, there is no shortage of debris and litter in space and it can be dangerous. But a "near miss?" It came within a mile of the space station and was being monitored every inch of the way, evasive action only a thruster button away.
A few years ago, on a flight to Mexico, I happened to look out the window and saw another jet coming toward us, but at least a half mile off to starboard and about a thousand feet below us. I could not quite make out the airline logo but it was close. Funny how I did not read headlines the next day "Near miss in skies over New Mexico" And yet, when you think about it, we were closer and there were more lives on board the two planes, than on any space station. Can we conclude from this that the more money something costs, the more close calls it will have? Why do they even print stuff like this?
Click on the photo so you can read the funny quotes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Becomes Old

I took this photo only a week ago but with the help of a filter in Photo shop, it became old with a few clicks of the mouse. It is yet another shot of the old wooden irrigation trough running alongside Highway 97 just south of the US border.
Speaking of old, the economic reports, regarding the recovery, are up to their old tricks yet again. In an economic rebound, perception is everything so there is a spin put to all the figures that come out on an almost weekly basis. Friday's spin in Canada was the employment figures. Great news! There were 27,000 new jobs created in the country last month. Certainly, this in not bad. However, these jobs were mainly in service industry and were for the most part low paying. The other fact, at the bottom of the page, was that unemployment overall was up. This is called spin. The hope is that the reader has a short attention span and will not read the details, so, the headlines display the good news of the double edged sword. The US figures make our own pale by comparison. Some say that real unemployment there is close to 20% and still rising. Our published official numbers are around 9% so we are not that far behind if one can almost double the official number to get the real number. Again, more spin and more old tricks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


The dried pods standing tall on their stalks are garlic. There are those, including me, who love the flavour that these crushed mini cloves gives to meat dishes. They are in abundance in the garden in Oroville.

There are those who like to add flavour to their lives in other ways. Someone I know very well has been attending the 'Burning Man' festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada this week. I had heard of it before and knew it was weird but after 'Googling' it this morning, I certainly learned a lot. One cannot go as a spectator but must participate. After paying a $250.00 entry fee, there is no money exchanged at the festival. All things are 'gifted', bartered, or exchanged in one way or another. Only coffee and ice are sold. It is a fringe art 'free for all' and totally 'off the wall'. I anxiously await a report when said couple returns this week.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Water Sports

Keith is reaching for something to hang onto as Andrew corners hard. Click on the photos to make them large.
Yes, they did 'submarine' and took an unexpected dip in the lake. Keith is watching as his sunglasses gently float to the bottom of the lake. He dove down and got them before they were lost forever to the weedy bottom.

After surviving her ride with Andrew on the SeaDoo, she risked a jaunt on the tube. Same deal here .... if she does not flip, Andrew gets to live.

This was a wild ride but again, no flip. Father, son and uncle, what a great team!

The cameras were all clicking on shore as the action was getting heavy.

This three way combo was fun to watch.

Coasting in to shore and greatly relieved to not have any lake water in their stomachs.

Andrew and Nate had a good run around the lake. Nate's speed tolerance improved as the day went by.

Here is Eldon, the Seadoo's owner, putting on a clinic.

Mother and son, Lis and Andrew. He took good care of his mother but a good dump would have been highly entertaining.

Yours truly finally got a turn but half way across the lake, the engine lost revs and I was barely able to limp back to shore. The problem was too difficult to solve so the Seadoo went onto the trailer to be hauled back home to the repair shop.
We are contemplating purchasing one of these water craft. They are fun and versatile and easily transported. As the Grandsons are growing, it would get good use.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Action on the Lake

Andrew's friend Eldon came on Friday night and brought his water toy. Here everyone is anxiously awaiting its launch.
Liam was really enjoying the home grown watermelon fresh from the garden. Like a little bird in the nest, he just opens his mouth until someone drops some food into it. He eats anything!

Little brother Andrew takes his big sister Rachel out for spin. I think they made a deal. If the watercraft does not flip, Andrew does not die.

Now this was a close call as Rachel plots her revenge.

No wipe outs, so all is well, and Andrew gets a little hug for keeping up his end of the deal.
We actually delayed our holiday by a day so I could bend over backwards for one of my customers. I am a sucker for that, but firmly believe that good service always pays. We installed some wallpaper in an en suite so the cabinets could be installed the next day. It COULD NOT WAIT! Later that afternoon we left for Oroville. We would come back right after the vacation and finish the rather large room and also do the powder room on the main floor. We got to the job bright and early on the Monday morning after our trip and the cabinets had not yet been installed! So what was the rush? Good question. The installers were supposed to be there any minute so we went to the powder room and there was no paper to hang. The builder had forgot to bring it by. Then the owner came and told us we could not hang the paper in the powder room anyway because the slate floor was not yet installed and she was paranoid about the tile setters bumping into the paper. Then she informed us that the cabinets in the en suite were not going in for another week. There was not enough paper to finish anyway as the person who measured and ordered thought that one could get exactly 56 sq. ft. out of a double roll of paper because that was how big it was. There was no allowance for pattern match, trimming, doorways, windows, etc. So, after an hour of waiting, talking, and negotiating, we packed up and went home. A day lost because we cannot go to another job unannounced. I do not like doing this, but the contract price just went out the window and it is now 'cost plus'.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Escape From the Doctors

Nate's confidence was growing by the minute as he is warming up to doing some surf sailing next year. His balance was good and he was on that board for 4 days straight.
Toys 'R' Us do not sell these, but sour cream containers make the best toys for little boys. Liam would cup it over his mouth for sound effects, put a ball in ... take a ball out, rattle various other things in it, and place his soother in it and then tilt it up back into his mouth. He also loved hiding his other toys under it and then 'rediscovering' them and proud of himself doing it.

What a great little family. We could not get Nate out of the lake for this shot.

Dry land snorkeling, just the way Chad prefers it. Maybe next year his confidence in the water will match his older brother's.

There was always competition for this very relaxing hammock in the shade of the Russian Olive tree.
Another day, another Doctor appointment. Between the dentist, two different chiropractors, a massage therapist, an NST therapist (Neuro structural Integration Therapy) an acupuncturist, an upper cervical chiropractor, my GP, and today a plastic surgeon, I have had 42 days this year, since February, interrupted. Each time it took an average of two hours out of my work day. You do the math and tell me if my income is not down. And only the GP and the plastic guy are covered under the Medical Services Plan of BC. In the next three weeks I have seven more of these appointments.
I managed to escape for only a few days when we were away, but Tues, the second day back I was getting a consultation on having a mole removed from the bridge of my nose, right under my glasses. That is what the plastic surgeon does, and you thought I was having botox or a nose job or something. Do you think I am that vain? Actually, a face lift might look good on me. On second thought, I might end up looking like MJ.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Meanwhile, Back Home

The last of the old irrigation system that fed this valley. The old wooden trough has fallen down and this is the only remaining piece. We can see it from our property, across the highway.
The soil is different in Oroville, than in our garden, because the Morning Glories are pink, but just as magnificent.

On our way back, we drove through Chesaw and the Nighthawk border station. This is a desolate stretch of road but full of history and evidence of old irrigation viaducts and small mining operations. The plan is to flood this valley with a hydro electric dam.

I got Nathan and Chad to stand still long enough to pose for a portrait at the gate.

This country is very lush and green where irrigated, otherwise it is desert. When I took this photo, I was standing only a few feet from where my father-in-law killed a 4 ft. rattlesnake only days earlier. This is getting too close for comfort but the intense heat and dryness is driving snakes and badgers across the highway to find comfort.
While we were away, we left our house key with Lis's brother who is a heating and air conditioning guy. The idea was to have a new high efficiency furnace installed. It would take Thursday and Friday and we were glad he could fit us into his schedule. On Friday, late in the afternoon, he called. I do not usually leave my cell phone on while on holidays, but did this time, and actually picked up some business too.
So, he says that he has some good news and some bad news. I never have liked that phrase. The good news was that the installation was complete and successful. The bad news was that as he was cleaning up in the furnace room, he noticed the hot water tank right next to the furnace had sprung a slow leak. He thought he would simply tighten the connection but when he did that, the whole thing 'blew out'. There was water running everywhere, even as we spoke on the phone. I told him where the main water shutoff was and that stopped the flow, but now we had the prospect of coming home to no water pressure and no hot water for laundry or showers. My mind was racing as to how I could make arrangements at long distance to have the tank replaced when he told me he might be able to do it on Sat. I made tentative arrangements but was relieved when he called again on Saturday morning to tell me he had a tank and was going to my house to replace my now defunct one.
The problem was solved, thanks to my great brother-in-law, being generous to us with his time. I now await the invoice for the whole procedure.