A Song for Canada…I Think

(Many thanks to Sandra and Helen  for the inspiration)

 

Today is July 4. We are keeping it quiet, low key, and close to home to avoid the ones let out of the homes for the rude and the lacking in common sense today. Hubby’s doing yard work. Oakley’s dozing in front of the fan. I’m planning on grilling chicken for dinner.

This last weekend  July 1 brought the birthdays of my sister, a dear friend, and Canada’s 150th. Two awesome humans and an awesome country all on the same day lead to much reveling. I went to the friend’s party. My sister went for a lovely lunch with her husband. Cities large and towns small celebrated Canada’s 150th without untoward incidents. Everyone looked as if they were having a great time in the pictures on the CBC website.

In honor of the sesquicentennial (type that without autocorrect flipping you off), Ontario’s government released a video with the provincial song updated for 2017 to reflect the growth and change  of the population since the centennial in 1967. Pretty awesome.

The 1967 version of the song was pretty awesome, too. Until recently when a couple of my comrades in social media who live in Ontario posted it a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know that it was a song. I thought that the “On-tar-i-ar-i-ar-ohhHHHH” part was a jingle for a tourism commercial released in my home state of Michigan.

And a beautiful ad it was: the image of a honey colored setting sun transforming a lake into a pond of gold with a soprano singing the province’s name as the image faded out.

As with many things of beauty, it became dangerous when it fell into the wrong hands. Or vocal chords in this case.

Such as the ones of lower elementary and preschool children. Mine, and Laurie’s and her little sister Becky’s, and Janie’s. We lived within a few doors of each other. On a slow summer morning, we circled ourselves on a lush lawn; I can’t recall whose. It was one of those childhood things that just happened. I don’t remember how. It just did.  At first everyone took a turn singing “On-tar-i-ar-i-ohhhh,” and then that went up the scale to the point where we plugged our own ears.

“ON-tar-i-AR-i-AR-i-O-OHHH!” Giggles. Up a few more notches.

And finally, “ON-TAR-I-AR-I-AR-EEEEEE-O-OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Becky was the youngest. I think her ability to hit that note at age four that made the neighbors think a murder was in progress. Dogs in a two-block radius started going berserk barking back at us. Had car alarms been the norm, we might have set off a few of them as well.

On cue, all our moms flew onto their respective front porches and as one shouted “FRANCESLEIGHLAURAJEANREBECCALEEJANEMARIE! Will you PLEASE stop screeching?”

We all mumbled a short apology, then as Janie’s mom closed their front door, we looked at one another.

Very quietly, but at the high end of her range,  Becky sang “on-tar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o-ohhhh….”

 

 

Can Rectal Thermometers Cause Brain Damage?

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By this stage of my writing career, I thought that I would be cranking out bestsellers every year and movies based on them would star Meryl Streep or George Clooney.  I dreamed of being famous. I dreamed of respected articles that made a difference. Or at least getting my independently published novel, A Distinct and Separate Feeling, sold by now. (my attempt to explain the separatist movement in Quebec via an adult contemporary romance. 250 pages, some with some damned good loved scenes if I say so myself. $12.00 includes shipping in the US. Barter considered as well.  If you’re interested, leave me contact info in the comments section and I’ll give you further instructions.) (I can sign it, too!)

However, reality played out somewhat differently. The assignments I’ve received have been varied and very interesting, certainly. I’ve written about tractor racing, bake-offs, consignment shops, journaling, dream interpretation, and how to make your own bread among other things.

I have also written web content for a medical supply house. Not for the faint of heart, but varied enough to keep my attention and service oriented enough to placate my altruistic streak. I have written about stethoscopes, some really fun equipment for special needs kids, and the defibrillator units kept handy in public places such as train stations. I had a great editor who was and is funny, gentle, and supportive when giving feed back. No matter how many times the litany of service gets chanted–“this will help someone, this will help someone”–there just are assignments that will bring a writer to his or her knees.

Like rectal thermometers.

Yes. Rectal thermometers. I had an assignment where I had to describe what differentiated them from oral thermometers (taste wasn’t mentioned); discuss the circumstances that mandate taking a patient’s temperature via the backdoor; advantages of digital readout and mercury filled; and metal or plastic-coated comfort tip.

I researched the material in on-line nursing journals. I looked at the manufactures’ websites. I assembled the material into a good solid article, reread it, then emailed it to my editor.

When I hit the “send” button, I swear to everything I hold sacred that something snapped in my brain. I felt something break.  You may have seen cartoons where a length of elastic or a rubber band has been stretched to its limit, breaks, and snaps back, forming a snagged and snarled ball. That’s what it was like.

I ended up leaving the job shortly afterwards. I truly enjoyed working with the editor. I really loved the other writers. But the brain damage from the piece on rectal thermometers took a long time to overcome. It took months before I could string together a coherent sentence of any quality.

Somehow, after reading, and reading a lot, and journaling and blogging a lot, the ability to write and write well came back. We’ll see how this gets applied.

It’s another example of how everything turns out all right in the end.

Strange Days, Indeed

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image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

In the smaller, personal word, I laid a bird to rest this morning. A thunk reverberated through the dinette and family room. He laid on the back step with glassy unfocused eyes staring at the sky. I think he might have been an immature cardinal based on the coloring, still mostly white but with bright orange-red feathers sprouting through.  With the help of a plastic bag, I transported the remains to the northeast corner of the property, then gently laid him on the ground. “May you rest and may you fly free,” I said. May it be so.

Now we wait the long wait for the vets’ office to return the second call. Oakley was a little restless last night. He finally found a cool spot near the fan and dozed off, or so I thought. By some act of grace, Hubby was up early. Oakley wasn’t snoring in front of the fan. Hubby went downstairs to find Oakley panting and pacing by the back door. Hubby woke me up so I could take him out. Out we were in the nick of time. It was bad enough that Oakley  is staying home from day care today. I called the vets’ for an antidiarrheal and an antibiotic used in extreme scenarios. The former is ready. Somehow, the request for the latter didn’t get filled.

Before that, Hubby had to wake me up at 1:30 this morning. Whatever I was dreaming about caused me to yell in my sleep. He gently woke me up. Usually, that’s the end of the story. But my brain took off on me. I never really went back to sleep. That was the second night in a row.

The not-so-personal world has ratcheted up the nuttiness to new levels

I struggle not to attach meaning to the deceased bird, the bad dreams, the upset tummy, or the incoming full moon. But after the last few days of news, I wonder. Tensions between law enforcement and minorities simmer as they did back in 1967-68 as I remember. We had Dallas, near St. Louis, St. Paul in the last week. The national conventions lie just ahead. Demonstrations will be held, I’m sure. May they be peaceful on all sides.

Another round of potentially severe storms hovers on the horizon for this afternoon. I took Oakley out about an hour ago. Hot sun plus mugginess plus a cool breeze indicates instability. We watch and wait.

Hopefully, the storms through the power of the water and the energy generated will provide a cleansing for the world. Or at least our little corner of it.

Picnics and Remembrances

 Today’s temps are expected to land a fingertip from 90. Oakley and I finished our sweaty panting morning walk by 8:15. Neither of us do well in heat, so a picnic is out of the question. Perhaps an afternoon jaunt to one of the local dog-friendly stores will be in order this afternoon.  Otherwise, we will limit outdoors time to that required for canine hygienic purposes.

However, it’s Memorial Day. Remember the ones who lost their lives in service. Remember the ancestors and loved ones who went before. And celebrate their memory with a picnic or cookout.

We mostly did cookouts at our house. Dad (Army, medic, served in Operation Fairwing to help keep Adolph and friends from establishing a beachhead near Rio; later stationed at a rehab hospital for returning soldiers where he met my mom) presided over the grill. Fallen sticks from the hickory tree in the back yard  elevated the burgers or chicken from postwar chow to gourmet delights for the ages. He didn’t do anything really special otherwise, just a dash of salt, a touch of pepper. That was it. Mom and Grandma did the potato salad and Jell-O and some other sides with pie for dessert. Kind of like Thanksgiving, only with lighter foods and warmth, usually.

That usually happened on Monday. The weekend was filled with running Grandma to the cemetery where her parents and several siblings (she was second oldest of nine and the last one standing) were interred so she could pay her respects to them while tending their graves. Sometimes we went up to St. Louis, a small town an hour or so north of Lansing where my grandfather had grown up to decorate and pay respects there. A few flowers, a little clean-up work, and all was as it should be.

We also tended the grave of the stillborn  premature child who should have lived to be my other big sister. I poured the water over the storm cloud colored flat stone while Mom scrubbed the dirt accumulated over the past year from the outline of the lamb and the letters BABY GAY APRIL X 1957 as gently as she would have her child’s cheek. Why didn’t she make it, Mama?…She was just too little and too weak, honey. More water over there, please…The small pot of pink geraniums were centered just above the stone. Why did they just name her Baby?…She wasn’t alive when she was born and new babies were just listed as Baby with the parents’ last name….What did you want to name her?…long pause…Pauline….Mom picked up the empty milk carton and wad of used paper towels in one hand, then held the other out to me. I took it, and we walked back to the station wagon. That makes me kind of sad….Me too, honey, but now I have you…She ever so gently touched the tip of my nose with the tip of her finger…and you make me very happy.  

Mom, Dad, and (yes, I say her name) Pauline rest together now. Mom on one side, Dad the other, and Pauline in between them. I haven’t been up to visit the cemetery since my dad’s burial. I just don’t do graves myself; I prefer to remember my parents doing what they did best: Dad grilling or cooking, Mom at the piano playing Debussy. There is no way of knowing who or what Pauline would have been.

Except very much loved, and in the end, that’s all that matters.

 

Storm Riding

Last night’s storm earned its place in the books. I don’t know what the wind speed stats were, but they were high enough to ban trucks on I-80, some 20 miles south of me, for a good portion of the overnight hours. We had some rain, a few knocked-over trees, but nothing really serious like the snow in Kansas and the tornados in Iowa.

I laid in bed, listening to the roar of the wind and the creaking of the rafters in response. When we built, Hubby used hurricane clips to attach the rafters and decking to the house and each other even though builders he’d spoken with had said that they weren’t needed.  At the time they cost 50 cents a piece. They’ve proven to be one of the best investments against the winds that we get out here.

It’s just part of life in an open space. It is November, the month of unstable weather and days covered in rainy sheets. As with storms at any other time of the year, an eye is on the sky and an ear is on the radio for developments and warnings.

The day before this front came through was the 40th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s fateful run down Lake Superior from Duluth to Detroit. The Fitz didn’t even make the Soo Locks where she would have entered Lake Huron and sank near Whitefish Point not too far to their west. There were no survivors.

This storm’s barometric pressure was supposed to have similar numbers, and one of the local weather forecasters who had worked the night of the Fitz’s sinking was practically breathing into a paper bag. Any storm or one like it that could produce waves of a size that could take out a 700+ foot long ship is to be respected.

When the numbers started to play into the news a few days ago, I fought the urge to go get a big bag of potato chips and Coke. The standard storm routine in my very young days involved waiting for the tornado sirens to sing their songs of warning, then one of us would take the chips, another the bottles of Coke, another the the flashlight, and Mom would take one last look to make sure that everything that needed to be turned off was before we proceeded to the basement. Once down there, the radio would go on so we could monitor the weather, and in between reports, dance or roller skate or sit and read the boxes of vintage magazines from the ’40’s and ’50’s. When the watch was lifted, we returned to our regular daily schedules, perhaps a little disappointed because our fun was interrupted.

Sometimes we didn’t quite get downstairs, but that was OK. I have no conscious memory of this, but according to my dad, Mom and I would take afternoon naps in the big blue rocking chair. Our neighbors across the street had a huge maple tree that danced in the wind. One afternoon while my siblings were at school, Mom and I watched the tree as we sank into our nap. And sank so deeply that we didn’t know that the sirens had gone off until Dad called to check up on us and ask how our basement stay had been.

These days, much to the cardiac-arrest inducing chagrin of some of my friends, I stand in the field to read the sky. I watch until the lightning gets uncomfortably close, and I go inside. Even when our local siren emits its eerie wail I watch out the windows.

Not last night, though. The wind picked up through the day, and tossed the relatively small amount of rain around, making it sound as if more fell than actually did.  When the rain subsided, I took Oakley out for his last run of the day. We went to bed, listening to the creaks of the roof and the snores of the canine intersperse the Renaissance music that filled the darkness.

Musings, Some Related to Food

The House just voted to cut food stamps again. I worked in social services once upon a half-life ago, and while yes, there are abuses, the vast majority of people who use them really need them: children, senior citizens, people with disabilities. Note to self: donate to food bank this week. Who’s with me?

Thinking about the Great Lakes this morning. Reflecting on memories from childhood about the day Lake Erie caught on fire. A dockworker or sailor or someone threw a smoldering cigarette butt into Lake Erie and it burst into flames. I’m old enough to remember this, wise enough to be grateful for Erie’s cleanup, and young enough to help keep pressure going to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. 

Not to take away from the shooting at the DC shipyard on Monday, but last night in Chicago thirteen people were injured in a drive-by shooting, including a three-year-old boy. Have we really grown that numb from that many incidents? 

I had scrambled eggs this morning. Melt butter over low heat while you mix up one or two eggs per person. That’s all. Pour into pan. When the eggs start to solidify around the edges, gently fold and stir until done. 

Lunch will be hummus, gluten free crackers, and fruit. Don’t know about dinner. I’ll deal with it then.

 

 

 

 

 

France is Where You Find It

I made my weekly run to the market yesterday. I bought bread made with an antique variety of wheat (with a lower gluten content and kinder to my tummy) from a young woman whose father, I believe, comes from Paris and whose mother hails from Russia. I bought a small tub of marinated olives and peppers from a man who comes from Marseille and is patient with my dusty high school French. The tomatoes just might end up in a tarte, made with a pastry crust (spelt or gluten-free) and some goat cheese. 

Kind of like the one I had when I went to the cooking class in France some years ago. We cooked and lived a la Francaise for an incredible week. 

It’s going to be a while before I get back, but in the meantime, small everyday practices keep me connected:

  • Flowers. I need flowers on my table. Nothing huge, but a $3.99 bunch from Trader Joe’s or the market can last for up to two weeks and go a long way.
  • Whether I’m getting produce from the market or the store, I select very carefully. I engage in conversation with the seller about the food, where it came from, chat about recipes, that sort of thing.
  • Making meals a little ceremonial. Having one without interference from the TV at least once a day, sitting at the table, and serving the salad as a first course, minor things to shift the focus. 
  • Focusing on the food. Ok, I have been known to read while eating if I’m dining solo. I do sometimes eat in front of the tube. But I try not to very often. Well, more often than I want to admit. 
  • Small touches, even with what seems like minor details, enhance the dining experience. Have you tried tuna and egg sandwiches? Most memorable meal for me was sitting on a bench eating one while watching motor scooters zip around the old quarter of Roanne (it’s near Lyon).  Can of drained tuna, chopped celery and onion, two chopped hardboiled eggs, enough mayo to make it hold together. I had it on a sandwich roll, but it would be great on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato. Perfect when you are getting the first draft of a novel started.

The market I frequent may be in an asphalt parking lot surrounded by small stores, railroad tracks, and early to mid-20th century homes instead of being framed by medieval church spires and supported by cobblestones. Its spirit and intent are the same. And that is where I find my small slivers of France.