Death, where is your sting?
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Tuesday was the last day of our little grandson's 12 days of sleepovers. It is not like we will never see him again, but it was a bit difficult to say goodbye. Sure, it is a bit time consuming, and tiring, but the payoffs are huge. We became quite close, much more than usual. These two photos were taken on his last day. In case you didn't notice, this is a happy kid.
What is so great about Liam? For starters, he is a very positive little boy. He wakes up with a smile on his face, and was never once grumpy or reluctant to get right up and get on with his day. The first topic of the day, at breakfast is "How is your day going?" That is him asking me. When I am being honest, I am saying something like "so so". I ask him and his response every time is "Great!" That immediately puts me in a better frame of mind.
He is full of ideas for the activities of the day. If I am reluctant about something, he quickly and easily changes gears and goes for plan 'B'. (he is flexible)
He never complains. Ask him how his 'leftover' lunch is and he always says something like "delicious" or "super good". Riding his bike, playing with a ball, playing table games, or doing puzzles, he is always cheerful and is a good sport even when he loses. He slides down the longest snake in "Snakes and Ladders" and takes it in stride. I jump two of his kings in checkers and he doesn't get one bit upset, even though he is competitive and really wants to win.
At bedtime, he willingly gets in the tub and when it is time to get out and get on the PJs, he just does it. I did not hear one whine, complain, or gripe the whole 12 days.
I doubt I was like that as a kid because I am not that way now. Is it a learned behaviour, or is it his personality and God-given disposition? I hope he does not change. He and I get along fabulously and I want it to stay that way. I love him to pieces and when he spontaneously and without solicitation throws his arms around me and announces that he "loves me so much" my heart melts and I want time to stand still.
Now, if you think this is just a grandfather bragging on his grandson, I will drop a little honesty here. Everything I wrote above? All bets are off when he is around his two older brothers. We will not talk about that. :)
Thursday, March 28, 2013
When one of our flowering trees died last year, we topped it and left the trunk to act as a support for Morning Glories. Over winter, some fungus found the dead trunk to be a perfect host. Now it is sucking life out of the once living tree. Even in death, there is new life.
It is interesting how the shell-like fungus lines up in a row, like hockey fans lining up for their beer at the local arena.
But this too will run its course. The fungus will dry up, the tree will rot, and they will all return to dust.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Today was a #10 day. We made good use of the warm and sunny weather by spending most of it outside. The block work on the north side of the carport was done a few weeks ago so that was a big project out of the way. Andrew did a fantastic job.
We noticed that the first Daffodil bloomed this weekend. There are many more to come. A few years ago, these guys got snowed on in late March. It does not look like snow right now, but then, March is a volatile month round here.
I dug up, cleaned off, and re-positioned the patio blocks today. This time I put them on a 3 inch bed of sand. They should not heave anymore.
busylizzy was in her element today, sunshine, dirt, and flower pots. Every year she is up to something new, and I wait to be surprised. Already, the lawn has been slightly re-configured and these pots have mysteriously multiplied over the winter. Now that her big veggie garden is at her brother's farm, she has more room for blossoms and exotic flora.
It was a great day.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
We are having the best time ever with our grandson staying at our house for 12 days. He is an 'outside' person and loves getting outdoors to garden, walk, play, or his favourite, riding one of his bicycles.
Here he is, in a lovely combination outfit right off the runways of Kidz 'R' Us Clothing Inc. It is part warm weather jackets and hoodies, gardening gloves, and the latest in cycling pants. If the rain had not stopped, he would be wearing gum boots for sure.
His Nana in the background loves to garden and she is out there every chance she gets. She really should have been a farmer.
Her fashion statement is much more appropriate and becoming.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
The Grandson's parents are away for a much needed holiday and we have the delightful task of keeping them out of trouble. Nathan's 15th birthday happened to fall on Spring Break right when mom and dad were gone. We didn't miss a beat and had a party anyway.
With the table piled high with gifts and cake, Nathan dug right in.
He has a flare for the dramatic. Mmm. Years of acting in the theater may have been the origin of this. Or maybe the other way around.
Mom and Dad left him a big Care Package/Gift Package and his eyes really lit up when he found this jar of peanut butter/jam all in one. It should cut school sandwich making time in half.
In this climate, one can always use a new Hoodie.
Even though he is fifteen, he still has a little trouble dressing himself.
Not to be left out, Chad got the consolation gift. Give him Chocolate and he is happy.
A badminton set from the Grands, to balance off the electronics. "Keep 'em fit," we say.
Liam loves parties. In fact he is a little party animal. I snuck in a photo of him before he got wind of the camera.
He loves to 'ham it up' in front of the camera. Even more so, apparently, than eating Black Forest Birthday Cake.
He is definitely on his way to the 'School for the Gifted'. :)
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The third manned mission to Mars had a crew of six. Only five returned home after a violent sandstorm forced them to abandon the mission. They left one behind because he was killed by flying debris in the storm. Or so they thought.
This is the story of how one very ingenious astronaut survived in the hostile Martian environment. This guy is very clever, which means the author is very clever. There is a lot of basic science and McGivor-like fixes, but it is believable, for the most part. At times it seems like the science is the story, and not the survival of an astronaut, but the writing is good and the story moves at a good pace, with plenty of clutch situations and suspense.
The rescue mission is finally organized, but it takes more than 200 days to even get to Mars. Food, water, and oxygen are huge issues and our hero is able to overcome all challenges in most interesting ways.
The book was a bit hard to put down, but it is a bit nerdy throughout. The science is understandable, but a geek would love this stuff even more than I did.
3 1/2 stars
Monday, March 18, 2013
So tell me. What would you be doing today if you woke up to the news that your country has just seized up to 10% of your savings account from your bank? That is the decision that Cypriots are making today. And they are doing the logical thing, taking their money out. It is called a 'run on the bank'.
This is having a far-reaching effect. All across Europe, the idea has taken seed that it could happen anywhere. First Cypress, then Italy, then Greece, followed by Spain and Portugal and perhaps then Ireland. By then there would be a cascading effect and all of Europe would be in a downfall and soon thereafter, America, etc. The warning sign will be huge when the banks declare 'Bank Holidays', a closing of the bank to prevent people from coming in to make withdrawals.
We see our governments do stupid things and we feel relatively helpless as there is so little we can do. But when our bank account is tampered with, we can do something.
We put our money in the bank because we deem it to be a safe thing to do. When it is apparent that it is not safe, we withdraw. When enough people do likewise, the bank and the banking system collapses.
Today's markets, as of this writing, reflect a nervousness, mainly due to the banking sector taking hits. After all, if your mutual fund portfolio has bank stocks, and you think the banks could collapse, would you not withdraw?
It will be interesting to see where this leads. I have always maintained that it will take some seemingly insignificant event to start a ball rolling that will trigger a massive crisis in the world's finances. It could be something like this.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
I was again reminded, in the last few days, of how time keeps on rolling. There were birthdays, a 67th, a 94th, and a 15th, all of people close to me.
My cousin who was only 6 in the photo I posted few days ago, is now 55 and even though he still looks young and vital, he too is subject to the rolling of time that nothing can stop. As we were visiting on Friday, we seemed to be reminiscing a lot. It is something old folks do a lot of.
I received in the mail, a few days ago, an application for a Guaranteed Income Supplement. They only send those to old folks. My only consolation is that I do not qualify.
I was having coffee at Tim Horton's the other day and as I was looking around at the other patrons, I realized they were all old folks, retirement age or older. I did not feel like I fit in until I saw my reflection in the window. My coffee buddy was looking kind of old that day and I suddenly realized he was 5 years younger than me!
How did this all happen so fast? I didn't sign up for this. Or maybe I just didn't pay attention to the small print. Back then at least I would have been able to see the small print.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Have you ever paid income taxes on money you never received? I have, and in both countries. The rules in both countries state that you must pay income taxes for money earned in that taxation year. For example, if you have a simple term deposit in your local bank, you are required to declare the income that deposit made even though your account may not be credited until the following year. It gets complicated because the information slip you get from your bank is based on the income in the year it was paid.
In my case, it gets stranger still. I had 'X' amount of dollars credited to my investment account as 'interest earned' and paid income tax on it every year for many years, even though I never had access to the account. It was to 'mature' and then be paid out. I would then pay tax on the capital gains, but will have already paid tax on the interest it earned in the meantime. Confused yet? But now the whole thing is in the tank, in receivership. I will get nothing from my original investment nor will I get the interest that was paid. This is both to the IRS and Canada Revenue Services. I will be seeing my accountant and paying him the big bucks to determine if I can get the money back that I paid on the money I never saw.
We need a tax revolt. A much simplified system is overdue. Years ago, when the Reform Party of Canada was in the political wings, waiting to form government, one of their policies was to introduce a 'flat tax'. Would somebody please resurrect this idea? I know the accountants will hurt because their work load will decrease, but the simplicity of it and the fairness of it will benefit all of us who try to earn a living.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Since I got my Kindle e-reader 14 months ago, I have only read 4 or 5 paper books. (as opposed to more than 50 kindle books) The last two paperbacks I read were "Will to Live" and "Ice Bound". I must say that my eyes must be deteriorating. The eye strain from reading the fine print, especially in "Ice Bound" gave headaches, and itching, burning, red eyes. It also took me a very long time to read those last two books, not because they were long, but because I have to stop frequently and I also lose my place at the slightest distraction.
As one ages, the limitations of later life slowly but surely creep up and failing eyesight is only one loss. It is more than comforting to know that one of my favourite pastimes will not be taken from me soon. The downside, of course, is that until Amazon has ironed out an agreement with the library system in Canada, I will not be getting too many free books (borrowed) and my reading habit will continue to cost me money. I am told by my local library staff that an agreement is imminent. But that was the story a year ago too.
Monday, March 11, 2013
I should have read this book in summer. It made me cold every time I picked it up. It is "Ice Bound" by Dr. Jerri Nielsen, a doctor who signed on for a one year term at the south pole.
This is a very interesting book on several levels. It is both a geographical and an inner journey, told in a most fascinating and articulate manner by a very intelligent and thoughtful woman who was a very qualified doctor.
She gets quite personal and details her life before her journey, and lays out the reasons for contemplating such a move in the first place. Her accomplishments and her failed marriage of twenty five years lays a background for the soul searching and the inner journey she undertook in the isolated bleak location of the Antarctic.
Life at the pole is fascinating to say the least, where every breath and every day you stay alive is an accomplishment. We have no idea of the practical side of surviving in constant -80 temperatures. The systems and logistics are precise and one mistake can mean certain death. From Feb. to Oct. there is no life line, no flights in or out, no rescue, so what you do in a sudden power failure or one wrong step 'outside' had severe consequences.
The social side of the story, living with 41 other people during the light less winter months will make or break a person also. All aspects of living at the South Pole station are fascinating.
Then, the only doctor, Jerri, discovers that she has cancer and it is only April. The year is 1999 and the email communications, as sporadic as they were, were the only lifeline to the outside world. Her thinking was profoundly changed as she waffled between giving up and finding a reason to live. She hung on until late November when the earliest flight to the pole in history was made to 'rescue' her. The book concludes with a brief description of her treatment in the USA and the fact that she became cancer free.
I then researched the author and found her obituary. She only lived another 10 years, something her attending physician told her would probably happen.
Having read the book, which had a happy ending, I noted with sadness that she was never reconciled with her husband or her three children. In fact, he sued her for $6 million after her book was published. It confirmed, for me, that she was right when she stated her reasons for leaving him.
I am sure that her last 10 years of life were good ones, as she certainly felt she was living on bonus time after getting off the ice alive. I also hope she finally found the peace that had eluded her all her life. She discounted God in all things, which puts the story into perspective. We can only do so much, go so far, have so much peace and understanding, until we acknowledge our Creator. In the end, I certainly hope she did.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
I had a yen to go through some old photos last night and stopped at this one. I will tell you why in a minute.
This is my family, me on the far right, my mom and dad, and my four sisters. The year is 1964. My dad had just sold his business and after a big household goods auction sale, packed up the three youngest sisters and he and mom were on their way to their new home in BC. My oldest sister (far left) and me were attending a private boarding school a short drive from this location, my uncle's farm near Osler, Saskatchewan. We would stay and finish the school year there and come later to BC. It was an exciting time, a big adventure and the start of a new life for all of us.
Why this photo now? There is one other person on the photo, an interloper. He is the little duffer with the great tan and the short haircut leaning against my dad's brand new 1964 Chrysler, just like his big cousin Terry. He is coming to my house for a visit next weekend. He's a big tough guy now and I will not mind a bit if he leans on my car.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Two related articles in yesterday's newspaper caught my attention. Cross border shopping is a hot potato in our border community as it takes much needed consumer dollars out of our local economy. Our falling dollar may help somewhat, but the recent cutbacks of staff at the US border stations may be more effective. The wait times are predicted to increase by at least 20% in the next month.
Border lineups are not for the impatient or the feint of heart. It helps nobody including the environment. (cars idling for an hour or more)
The second article was also regarding US cutbacks and this one also will have an impact on our local economy. The military is curtailing participation in the air show business. The 'big boys' in the flying business are always a huge draw for air show goers.
So just how wise is the US government for choosing its priorities for cutbacks? That they finally are curtailing some spending is commendable and should have been done five years ago at the soonest. The military pullback makes sense. What is productive about burning thousands of litres of jet fuel just to show off your military hardware?
But, the border thing is just plain silly and ill advised. The US economy benefits greatly when Canadians go south to shop. When they cut back on staff and eliminate any overtime, and the potential consumer is so inconvenienced that he decides not to go south, the dollars stay in Canada. That is good for us, but dumb for the USA to allow such a thing.
But then those Washington bureaucrats don't know a cross border shopper from a cross dresser.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
There has been much fanfare over the series "The Bible" whose first episode aired on Sunday evening on the History Channel.
There are some inherent dangers in attempting such an ambitious project.
First, there is the audience's expectations. The scope of the Bible, its history, its characters, its stories, is really too large to try to capture in a ten hour series. (Actually with all the advertising, it is more realistically a six hour series.) If the audience expects to see everything contained in the pages of the Bible, they will be disappointed. Indeed, the entire story of Joseph and how the Israelites ended up in Egypt is not even given a mention.
Then there are the special effects. In today's movies, we expect the unbelievable to be depicted a most real fashion, something which is possible with the modern technology available. This series falls down in that regard. At least, so far.
Then there is interpretation and dramatic license. Staying true to the story is something Hollywood has never been able to do and this series is no exception. In fairness, the objective as stated by the producers, is to stay true to the spirit of the Bible. Again, this is open to interpretation. What I deem to be crucial to the fulfilment of that objective, may be deemed a trivial oversight by someone else.
For someone not familiar with the contents of the Bible, this series may be helpful, if no other reason that it may entice them to crack the pages of their own Bible.
I will continue to watch, but if the second episode does not do a better job of holding my attention, it will be my last. I am not used to watching TV, and I am reminded why I quit many years ago. I have zero patience for the proliferation of ads. Unfortunately, my biggest impression of episode one is that I could hardly sit through all the advertising. This does not bode well for my continued loyalty.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
If you enjoy the TV show "Survivorman" you will enjoy this book written by the same person that created the show.
Les Stroud has re-told a collection of extreme survival tales and put an interesting twist to them. As each story unfolds, Les assesses the situation and gives the reader his opinion on the decisions made, and the action taken. He is a bit of an expert on the subject and intersperses the stories with some of his own adventures in the world of survival.
After each episode, he gives a percentage grade in four vital areas of survival. Luck, kit, knowledge, and will to live. It is very informative and the reader cannot help but assess what he would do under the same circumstances. We cannot say with surety that we would live or die in a similar circumstance because each of these categories can work either for or against us.
My favourite story is the one about the Robertson family who sell the family farm in the UK, buy a boat, and attempt to sail around the world. After a very rapid and unexpected sinking, they find themselves adrift in the South Pacific in a life raft tethered to a small dingy. They eventually became so proficient at survival that they were not even that excited when they were finally rescued. But how they did it is absolutely fascinating.
I give this book 4 stars.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Friday saw us doing another fun project with wallpaper. We were working with Cole & Son wallpaper for the first time. This is an exclusive line out of England. They have been manufacturing hand printed wallpapers since 1875, by appointment to her Majesty, the Queen of England.
When I got home after the job, I went to their website and found some very interesting things, including a video on their hand printing techniques.
We papered two feature walls, one in a hallway that is visible from the driveway and parking area of this exclusive home, and the other in a child's bedroom. There is more on order to complete the bedroom.
Without doubt, this one of the finest wallpapers I have ever worked with, both in final appearance, and in hanging characteristics. I was so impressed, I contacted both the manufacturer in England and the supplier here in town to tell them so. I have never done that before.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Here I am on my knees once again. I am not washing floors, installing baseboards, or looking for dust bunnies. Neither have I fallen and can't get up. I am putting the final touches to another wall of paper. There is almost always some interesting aspect to every job and this was no exception.
I got a panic call from the homeowner, saying that all the furniture had been moved, the paper had arrived, and then the paperhanger showed up and took one look at the paper and left. He said he could not handle the degree of difficulty.
I had work for only that morning, so, much to the delight of the customer, I said I could be there early afternoon. Two hours later I was done and everyone was happy.
Then I get a call and an email from the designer who said she has had a hand in the renovation of this house for the last year and she did not appreciate being "left out of the loop". By that, I assumed that she wanted the job to go through her so she could take her cut. I could be wrong but there is no disputing the fact that I was sought out and hired by the homeowner.
After lengthy communications with her, it was all straightened out and everyone is happy, including Crown Wall Coverings who manufactures this particular product.
I will not go into detail, but suffice to say that I was glad I was in and out so quickly, and got paid immediately, because the customer was uber fussy. I still cannot believe I escaped before she found some reason to keep me there for a week, pointing out microscopic flaws in the paper, or making me clean up a piece of lint that fell off of my shirt.