GRATITUDE

I feel grateful for many things in my life.  First and foremost, I’m grateful that I have such a great family.  I’ve been blessed with seven wonderful children, five great children-in-law (so far), and 4 grandchildren…..and growing.   I have two terrific sisters who are truly my best friends.  And I have so many cousins it’s hard to keep track.   Plus I have a few close friends that I would consider part of my family as well as many aquaintances.

For the last 36+ years, I have been a mother and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been so influential in another person’s life – to teach, learn, lead, follow, listen, talk, etc.  My children have grown into incredible people whom I am very proud of.  And I couldn’t have picked better partners for them if I’d tried!

I have gotten great joy from seeing my granddaughters grow from newborns to ‘school age’ girls, with confidence and love of life.  Welcoming my new foster grandchildren, has been a new experience for me this past year and I am grateful for the opportunity to share in their lives for however long I am granted.

Now that I am in the ‘autumn’ of my life, I cherish my sisters Betty and Faye even more.  I have lived in a different locale than them for over 40 years but we still remain the closest.  Every time I get a chance to see them, I am forever grateful for another day, as we have spent a lifetime together….and plan on spending many more years in each others’ lives.

I have a home of my own to share with my family, friends,  and visitors alike and I am grateful for it daily.  I stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, feeling safe and secure within its walls.

I am grateful that I am able to grow some food in my garden, smell the creeping thyme, watch the birds, touch the earth, taste my own raspberries, and hear the sound of a distant train.  

I am grateful that I live in a country where people are free, children are loved, and abject poverty doesn’t exist.  My son has travelled around the globe and can attest to the value of a country such as Canada.

I’m grateful that I have choices in my life and can choose a certain path, attitude, feeling, or mood for myself.  I feel grateful that I was ‘called’ to be a midwife for a few decades, assisting hundreds of families as they welcomed a new member of their family on their journey into this world.

I’ve been lucky in my life to have had two long marriages that, for the most part, were very gratifying and brought much happiness into my life during their time.   I’ve been gifted TWO extended families.

I feel grateful that health care in this country is “free” and available to everyone.  If I am ever stricken by a serious illness, I know I will get the best of care and treatments.  I’ve had some experience dealing with our “health care system” when my husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Even though it can be difficult to ‘navigate’ at times, it’s still better than the for-profit system in many countries.

Throughout my life, I’ve suffered many personal losses, but I am grateful for all the positive things in my life.  Every day  I focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative – happy thoughts always FEEL better than sad thoughts.  I look forward to my future and all the experiences that I will encounter.

And every night before I close my eyes to go to sleep, I give thanks for something that I am grateful for ……

My Technology ‘Timeline’

I am amazed at the development of technology.  Let me walk you through my journey of how technology has affected my life…..

I was born in the early ’50s when ‘technology’ was in it’s infancy.  By technology, I’m referring to TVs, phones, computers, various hand held communication devices, and things I don’t even know about.  I remember our first television set quite clearly:  a 12″ screen mounted on top of a similar size speaker  and all encased by a wooden box.  I grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada so we got the feeds from Buffalo, New York’s CBS, NBC, and ABC networks as well as CBC in Canada (the only ones at the time) picked up by our antenna mounted on the roof of our house.  I watched favourites like the “Wonderful World of Disney” , “Lassie”, and “Hockey Night in Canada” in glorious black and white, often flecked with interference ‘snow’.

1950s TV

Back in the day, we played outside mostly and really didn’t watch TV alot.  The VCR player, DVD player, and Blue Ray had not been invented yet so you watched the programming that the TV stations broadcasted.  Our telephone was ‘retro’ too:  a large dial with  a tethered, separate, heavy handset you listened and spoke into, which sat on its own ‘telephone table’.   And the only ‘computers’ then were involved with Outer Space exploration.

We witnessed history on those little boxes during  days on end of continuous TV coverage of the 1963 U.S. President John F. Kennedy assassination.  For the first time in history, the world witnessed a live shooting on television when JFK’s alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shockingly gunned down right before our eyes.  Television brought history to life….and death.

The first time I saw a colour Television was in the mid-sixties.  WOW, I was so amazed at all those shades of green!  We got our first colour TV about 1967 – a huge wood floor model taking up about 6 square feet.  There was no remote so you actually had to get up to change the channel.  Captain Kirk looked so handsome in colour……  I remember watching the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong, live, as it happened in the middle of the night, all by myself, staring at the stars and the moon in amazement.

I recall seeing my first computer in 1973:  it took up an entire room in my university , the size of my house!  It was so noisy, windy, and all those ‘discs’ moved at such dizzying speed I thought I was going to be sick or have some kind of seizure!!

I sailed through the ’70s, technologically frozen, too busy with post-secondary education and then new babies I guess.  By the early ’80s, we purchased our first VCR:  we chose ‘VHS’ (Video Home System) rather than ‘Beta’, by sheer luck, as Beta never really caught on and fell by the wayside.  It came with a remote control, tethered to the VCR with a cord and it was a real circus trying not to trip over this cord.

Telephones were still corded and ‘mobile phones’ were still only available/affordable for the elite or government.  There was only one home telephone/land-line provider:  Bell and they ‘rented’ you the phone for a monthly fee.  You couldn’t just go to a store and buy a phone !!!  We got our first “portable” a.k.a. cordless home telephone in the early ’90s – it was a very large phone about the size of a kleenex box with a long 12” metal aerial sticking out of the top.  You had to stay within eyesight of the charging base as reception dwindled from other rooms in the house.  And the aerials were always getting broken off too.  Nowadays, we have several cordless home telephones and I haven’t lost one of these yet (well….there’s still another cordless phone in my garden….somewhere).  In the mid ’90s we got our first ‘mobile phone’ – this unit plugged into the cigarette lighter of a vehicle and was truly mobile as it could only be used IN a car because it was corded to the phone touch-pad.  Chris had to make a 12″x12″  wooden box for it to fit in!  Time usage was about 75 cents a minute/or part plus and an exorbitant monthly ‘connection’ fee AND cell towers were few and far between, so this phone was used for emergencies only!

Technology in general was accelerating at incredible speeds by the late 1990s. Vinyl music albums were replaced by cassette tapes in the ’70s, then CDs to be played on portable CD players with headphones – a teen was really cool if they walked around with a CD player (the size of a plate) and headphones listening to their favourite artist!  These days, you don’t even notice iPods or Mp3s tucked away as people of all ages listen away.   Personally, I like my vinyl albums and still have my original Woodstock, Beatles, and Led Zeppelin among others.   However it’s difficult to find replacement needles for the record player so whenever I see one at a garage sale, I often buy it just for the diamond needle.   Instead of movies produced on VHS tapes, they became available on slim DVDs.  This advancement was a  big bonus for the industry as they could re-issue the same old movies and music all over again on a new format!  By the late ’90s we had 2 TVs in our house!  However it was in the mid-2000s before we bought into the DVD market and added a DVD player to our home.  Today, I cannot find a new replacement VCR to buy but have found several on Freecycle – I still have shelves and shelves full of VHS movies that my grandchildren now watch like alot of the classic Disney movies and the ‘Land Before Time’ dinosaur movies.

About a dozen years or so ago, we took the plunge and bought a Star Choice -now Shaw- satellite dish and receiver.  I resisted for several years because all I saw for satellite TV were those huge satellite dishes bigger than the size of a patio umbrella!  No way was I going to look at THAT at my house!  Then my husband told me about these small dishes that mounted on your roof -unbelievable!  So reluctantly I agreed to his purchase of the new satellite system to replace our antenna reception.   It really was amazing to watch TV that had no ‘snowy’ reception with these aging eyes or have the signal drop inconveniently!  My original childhood 12″ TV screen has now evolved to a 47″ LCD flat screen TV thanks to a Christmas gift from my son Taylor.   It’s funny now because after all these years, I’m planning on cancelling my Shaw satellite TV in favour of free over-the-air antenna digital high-definition TV and computer internet TV programming (that can be hooked up to the new TV).  We even have years and years worth of movies on a little USB stick that we insert into the TV to watch movies!  Incredulous!

In the late ’90s, we bought our first computer:  a desktop IBM costing several thousand dollars.  My oldest son Robin set me up with an email address and wrote everything down on a paper about starting it up.  Then next day I did everything he wrote on that paper but to my frustration, it didn’t work.  I phoned him up and we went over everything while I had him on the phone……then he said something which wasn’t in my instructions  “…..now press enter” – Whoa!  “you never said to press ‘enter’!!”  LOL – and so now I was off to the cyber-races!  That computer was replaced in 2005 with another desktop and had a home in our kitchen.  At that time, a  telephone dial-up connection was the only thing available which meant that every time someone was on the computer (like every day between 4-9 pm) nobody could make or receive a telephone call!  Today we have wireless high speed broadband, but you’d think that since we are so close to the nations capital, we would have more options like cable or dsl but it seems we are still in a ‘black hole’…..    Now we all have laptops and most evenings you can find us sitting together in the livingroom talking and watching TV……while ‘surfing’ the ‘net’!

Even Kitten likes to 'surf'

Cell phones…..I always thought I was abit techy because I had a cell phone.  The last time we bought new cell phones about 6 years ago, we had a heck of a time finding one that just made phone calls!  All those ‘new’ phones took pictures and videos and we just wanted to make a phone call if we needed to!  I still use that cell phone today and it has served me well -I usually only use about 10-15 minutes a month.  I debated whether to go with a pay-as-you-go until I contacted my phone provider and told them I wanted to cancel my phone – suddenly they had an alternate monthly plan for $15 (instead of the $30 I had been paying) that would suit my needs.  I’m afraid I’ve missed the boat when it comes to cell phone technology:  I wouldn’t know how to use an iPhone and I think it would be too much for me to learn right now:  internet, telephone, television all in one!  And I won’t even begin to discuss the new “iPads”…..it boggles my mind!  Maybe in the future, I’ll need a brain stimulation lesson …….   But, I must admit that I have no desire to keep up with the latest techy fashion:  iPhones, iPads, iPods, Netbooks, Notebooks, E-books, Blackberrys or whatever,  so that I can “Tweet”, “Watch”, “StumbleUpon”,  or “Like” everything out there in cyberland!

So here are the financial statistics:

1950’s Television = Free    vs.   2012 Shaw Direct Digital Satellite TV = $75+

1970’s Telephone = < $10   vs.   2012 Telephone, Landline + Cellphone = $48

2000 Internet =  Free $ dial-up via University FreeNet  vs. 2012 High Speed Broadband = $75+

I agree with my son Marty’s belief that knowledge should be free for the sharing.  Thus internet and television should be free.  So maybe someday that ideal will be realized ……until then, I’ll just keep “liking”, emailing, “commenting”, “surfing” and blogging away.

HOME SWEET HOME

I’ve lived in my current home for over 30 years.  What makes a house a home?

In 1981 when we moved here, this house was kind of half finished:  old Mr. Jones, the first owner/builder, was creating a ‘dream house’ for his wife until she died suddenly.  Neighbours say he died of a broken heart 6 months later…..so their adult children decided to sell this house.  That first day we moved in, my 3 young sons were delighted in chasing frogs in the long grass and exploring the riverfront.  Back then, it was a long distance telephone call to the children’s school, fire department, or the city……and people thought we lived way out in the boonies.

Over the years, alot of changes have taken place.  I became a single parent of 5 young children.   Later I came to realize that when one door painfully closes, another door opens when I met and married Chris.  Two more children were born making it 7 children, many of them born at home in this house.

With so many children, came so many interior changes to this house.  We’ve built more rooms and renovated areas than you can imagine!  At one time there were 3 bedrooms upstairs and none downstairs, now there are 3 bedrooms downstairs and one upstairs!  The upstairs is now ‘open concept’ …..easily accommodating our weekly family gatherings of 13+ people.

Outside has had just as many improvements.  About 20 years ago, we built a 2 car garage, then a few years later, closed in the ‘breezeway’ a.k.a. the mudroom, connecting it to the house .  We doubled the size of the driveway, which comes in handy these days with my grown children having their own cars when they come.  The garage has also served as our ‘overflow’ area, hosting many parties through the years like our annual skating party, summer party, weekly Saturday night hockey games with the neighbours where we also played darts, cards, and  pool,  (yes we put a pool table in our garage), and even our childrens’ wedding parties.

I’ve enlarged the garden many, many times.  I continue to expand my fruit bushes by planting more blueberries every year and expanding my raspberry patch.   My vegetable garden out back was increased last year when I created a raised ‘kitchen garden’ up closer to the house.  We built a

Backyard

pond in the back about 10 years ago which houses goldfish and a big Koi, plus various native frogs, turtles, birds, and other wildlife.  It also serves as my giant rain barrel:  I connected a plastic pipe to one of my rain barrels at the house to keep the pond constantly filled because I ‘backwash’ my pond water into my vegetable garden when I need to water it.  Ten years ago, we reduced the  grass area in front of the house by making 5 foot wide garden beds along the porch,up the driveway and continuing in front of the cedar trees by the road in a giant ‘horseshoe’.  I grow many different ornamental grasses, low-maintenance perennials like Black-eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers, and  various Japanese Maple trees, plus I stuff in some vegetable plants when I’ve started too many.   My flower gardens must be self-sufficient as I rarely water them.  I do plan on setting up rain barrels out front since I’ve had great success with them out back for the veggies.  In the backyard, there’s still plenty of room to set up the badminton net every year or play bocce, volleyball, or soccer on the grass.  In the winter we can make a skating rink on the river, cross-country ski, or snowshoe.

I’ve heard it mentioned many times that our home is warm and welcoming.   Visitors feel comfortable and free enough to make themselves at home.  My Sister Bet loves to come and lay on the couch and be served her tea like a Princess that she is.  My other Sister Faye generally visits several times a year for a few weeks each and is my ‘low-maintenance’ Sister LOL!  I just love it when my Sisters come!!  We always make room for my adult children from afar who come back home for a visit or a few months.  Sometimes, joyfully, this house is bursting at the seams with company!!

There has been alot of change in this area in the last 30 years.  My immediate neighbourhood is ‘closed’ in that there can be no further development due to the Rideau River ‘floodplain’ plan.  But more people are discovering the benefits of country living and moving out beyond the city limits, so there’s an increase in traffic noise.  And they expanded a road to become a 4 lane highway a few kilometers away, so I often hear ‘highway noise’ when the wind blows from the north.  All in all, though, I have accepted the changes to my environment since I love my home.

This house will always be my home:  I’ve raised 7 children, 2 husbands, and now 4+ grandchildren here.  My home has the first breath of my newborn babies and the last breath of my late husband wrapped within its walls.  I’m here for the long haul.

 

 

My ‘Vintage’ Car

I drive a 20 year old car.  My 1992 Honda Civic has over 335,000 kilometers on it and I love it.  The engine purrs like a kitten……well, except for earlier this week when it balked and ‘ran rough’ when idling.  I knew it was trying to tell me something, so I’d better listen!   It turns out that it was just the spark plugs and wires that I had neglected to change in the last 4 years/75,000 kms…..

There’s something to be said for driving an ‘elderly’ vehicle.  My car doesn’t have a dvd player, cd player, mp3 player (although we now have an adapter which plugs into the cigarette lighter to play Nellie’s iPod), power windows, air conditioning…….well, I think you get it.  When we first got this car in 2008, my teenage kids were amazed that they could open the windows themselves without the car being on!!  WOW, human-powered windows!  There’s so much space inside it’s amazing!  It’s technically a “wagon”, so when I fold down the back seats I can fit a ton of stuff inside.  Once, at a garage sale, I managed to fit in a chest, 3 arrow back chairs, a kids bicycle, and some other odds and ends, to the amazement of all.  I always have an old sheet in the back just in case I see something I need to bring home, like my muffler that fell off in the field while searching for our Christmas tree.  And I can fit in 5 adults and even our Husky dog, cooler, and assorted ‘camping equipment’ for our annual family camp-out at my daughter Kristi’s homestead in Westport……in one trip!  There are lots of windows to see out of and no real ‘blind spots’.

My car.......new

My old reliable car has been good to us…..it’s gotten Marty and Jeanette back into the city when they came for most  Sunday dinners in 2010 before they left for India….   I’ve learned again to navigate roads during freezing rain and snow after  I found some good, gently used for-4-months, snow tires on Kijiji….  it reliably starts to pick-up kids from school….. she takes  (former owner) Della and I on our ‘gal-pal’ day outings  …… And it’s SO easy to park – I usually exclaim “I love this car” every time I squeeze into a parking spot.  Compared to parking our old ’94 minivan or Chris’ 4×4 truck WITH snowplow, this compact little Honda is a breeze!

I like to keep my driving local -within a 2 hours drive to home.  If I need to go further, like to my sister Faye’s in Hamilton, I just take the train or ride along with Kristi when she goes to Toronto for a business trip.  I get terrific mileage -usually 500 kms to a tank of gas costing $35-40.00ish.

I appreciate how stiff something/someone older can be after sitting for awhile, so these days I plug in the poor old car for 3 hours or so before starting it,  when overnight temps are going down below -20C.   And when I do drive, I gently accelerate up to speed rather than stepping-on-it/peddle-to-the-metal.   Slow and easy…..just like me.  We’re a perfect fit!

Every summer, I like to sand down the rust spots as best as possible and use some Tremclad rust paint to touch up the spots.  It looks okay………..from a distance, with very little rust.  Underneath it looks great, considering the fact that for the first 16 years, the underside was oil-sprayed.

Once last summer, I pulled up at a stoplight,  beside a brand new Honda convertible – the driver looked at me and I looked at him – we smiled at each other when we recognized we were each driving a Honda – then he said “nice car” and not sarcastically either -I responded “nearly 20 years old and runs like a charm” and he commented that he hoped his will last that long.   I like to think that my car is just ‘broke-in’ at 335k and that I can still get a few more miles out of it if I treat it fairly and with respect.    I know the day will come when I have to say good-bye and send it to the auto recyclers, but for now I’ll just keep on rollin’.

Skating Rink of Dreams

Melvin and I  (okay well, mostly Melvin) made a skating rink last weekend.  We took shovels down to the frozen river and just started shovelling.

I wondered if it had been cold enough for several days, to freeze the river thick enough to skate on……..until I saw a truck pulling an ice ‘shack’ down the river!   Well THAT answered my question!   According to the Lifesaving Society, our River’s ice needs to be at least 4″ (12cms) thick to walk on and 12″ (30cms) thick to support a vehicle.  We were Safe!!

Melvin learning to skate 1997

The last time we had shovelled off an ice rink on the river was 2006 -the year Chris was diagnosed with cancer.  That rink was huge with a skating oval around it – rink for hockey and the oval for just skating or a game of ice Bocce!  For awhile, we had the help of our snowblower or snowplow truck to get the heavy snow off before we scraped it down to the ice, and it still took us 4-6 hours every time it snowed!  But it was all worth it to see the kids, neighbours and friends skating!  We even put up spotlights on the trees along the river’s edge for night skating.   Our favourite event was our annual Skating Party where friends, family, and neighbours would gather at our place for a day of skating and other winter activities like curling or dog sledding (poor Yukon wasn’t too keen about this role), plus a winter bonfire, and followed by a pot-luck supper.

Around the bonfire @ our Skating Party

It was a great time……..and I thought those days were gone forever.   Until 17 year old Melvin said that he wanted to make a rink on the river this year!  And last weekend it happened!  I had forgotten how exhilarating it was to be out on the river pushing snow!  Melvin did most of the shovelling, with me just pushing the little rows, that fall off his shovel, towards the bank.  We put some 5′ bamboo poles with some streaming flourescent orange trail-marker tape, into the far banks to keep any skidoos off our rink.

Granddaughters Kalia and Olivia were already here for their ‘sleepover’, so I put their skates on them (not as easy as it used to be BTW), and helmets and off they went!  Sturdy plastic lawn chairs helped them slide along the ice and stay upright as they re-learned how to skate, while I helped Melvin finish shovelling.  It was absolutely wonderful to watch them skate!  On Sunday, when Kristi and Mike arrived with their boys, the rink was busy again with skaters!   We should be able to get in 6-8 weeks of skating, as long as we can keep the snow shovelled off.

And today we’re getting our first real snowstorm with 15-20+ cms of snow!   I guess I know what we’ll be doing tomorrow…….

Food for the Winter Soul

                  Homegrown Organic Squash
 

Food.  I love Food.  My whole life revolves around Food.  As the matriarch of a family with 7 children and now several grandchildren, I am acutely aware of how important food is.   And being a diabetic, food directly affects every aspect of my life.   I usually make meals from “scratch”  using whole foods.  Now that it’s winter, our meals have changed from barbequed zucchini, peppers and potatoes.  We have more cooked “starchy” foods like carrots, squash, turnip, and potatoes in meals of stew, chili, roasted meats, “breakfast for dinner”,  lasagna and other pasta.   (I recently read that Chinese Traditional Medicine recommends cooked starchy foods during the cold months)

Yesterday I had a nice chat with my cousin Maureen Sinclair about “the good old days” -we were reminiscing about our grandparents farm:   what an incredible place!  No wonder our Grandmother lived till she was 102 years old!  Even into the year 2000+, they heated the house with wood they cut themselves and cooked everything they ate on that cookstove.  They grew all their own potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, herbs and much more (AND often gave alot of it away to anyone who needed it) storing it during the winter in a glorious smelling earthen-floored root cellar below the dining room.  They raised chickens, pigs, and cows to feed themselves or trade for other products like flour.  Maureen and I chuckled at the memory of taking our turns churning the butter 50 years ago!  As simple as it sounds, their life was very demanding.  I can only hope to achieve some of what I consider their successes.

I’m not a JIT (Just In Time) kinda person (my son Marty worked at a fruit/veggie store and they actually called the delivery vehicle the “JIT truck”).  Many people only have a 3 day supply of food and shop on-the-fly every day with no meal planning.  On the other hand, I plan meals well in advance.  I have a stockpile of my most commonly used ingredients so it’s easy to make a meal without having to drive to town  for something I don’t have.  Every time I consider buying something, I debate to myself where it has come from and how far/at what “real cost” is it to get it to me.  I will NOT buy grapes from Chile or oranges from South Africa – I always read where produce comes from as it changes frequently.  We do eat meat several times a week so I’ve found a local supply of pasture-grazed beef.  I’ve also secured a supplier of “free range” local chicken eggs.  I try to have several hundred pounds of potatoes, 40 lbs of onions, 15-20 winter squash, and as many apples and carrots as my garden allows/or local, in my cold room in the fall.

Many years ago, I was intrigued about ‘the root cellar’ (I can still smell that sweet root cellar of my grandparents, in my mind) and came across a book by Nancy Bubel entitiled “Root Cellaring” 

http://www.amazon.ca/Root-Cellaring-Natural-Storage-Vegetables/dp/0882667033.  I bought a copy and we built a “cold room” under our mudroom.  But I have another “cold spot”, by default, just inside the front mudroom door where it’s usually just above freezing – so I’ve added shelves and bushel baskets (garage sale = 50 cents) for food storage. 

Cooking in my cookstove oven usually takes longer so again I plan ahead and get supper in around 1-2 pm or so.  Of course, stovetop foods can simmer all day while my cookstove heats the house.  In the summer I have a “rule” that if it’s hot outside, I don’t cook inside and heat up the house.  We use the BBQ or wood-fired chimnea to cook everything that requires cooking.

One of my favourite “desserts” is zucchini-carrot bread and banana bread.  I try to make these often at this time of year, freezing the extra loaves.  They are from the Whole Foods for the Whole Family Cookbook

http://lb.ca/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/additem.bbx?/LJR474/Z1022U7(searchlb.bbx)@@c733650.p232420.1.t1325779972GDN^title005#title005 -one of my recipes was selected for inclusion in this cookbook over 30 years ago, I am proud to say.

I can’t talk about food without mentioning “Sunday dinners”:  every Sunday, the family gathers to enjoy the day together and dinner.  Without fail, usually, all my children who live within 100 kms come back home on Sundays-we may have a “Wii-nament” with Wii bowling that even the youngest can do or just sit around talking or reading until supper while the grandkids play with each other.  These days, we’ve had to add the card-table to the end of the 2-leaf dining room table to accomodate the usual dozen or so family members at suppertime.

All this talk about food has made me hungry!

Christmas dinner

P.S.  Happy 20th Birthday to my daughter Nellie!

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