The Blogger Who Went Missing and Can’t Stay On Topic

Tomorrow I am going to meet with friends to talk about blogging.  It is not easy to keep writing blogs over time.  Some of it might be the knowledge that if you slow down and then stop blogging you may find out no one really cares.  I recall a segment in one of Garrison Keillor’s CD’s (it was a tape when I first heard it), The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra.   He talks about hosting a university radio program on classical music.  He took it on mostly to impress a girl he admired but had never spoken to.  He screwed up his courage and asked her, one day, if she listened to the program and she said “All the time”.  The next day the sound engineer told him there had been a transmitter problem and the show had basically not gone out over the waves for several months. And no listener had called in to ask why.  In other words, no one missed him.

Blogging, is sort of like that.  It might be fun while you do it but when you quit, well, unless you’ve got a special talent or topic or you’re a celebrity, no one misses you.  That said, I am happy to share the little I know about blogging with others who plan to use the platform for good things.  Their interest has piqued mine.  I went so far as to change the picture from a winter scene (it hasn’t been winter for months) to one that looks like Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland at this time of year.

Since I haven’t blogged for so long I need to refresh my memory of how to do things and so will end with a totally unrelated (to the topic above) series of photos.   We were on a road trip to Eastern Canada earlier this month.  We logged 5700 km in two weeks traveling and sightseeing in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Not long into the trip I started to take pictures of the salt and pepper shakers. Don’t ask me why.  I wish I’d thought of it one day earlier as I missed the little white Eiffel Tower set in Edmundston, NB. And so, to the seasonings of the Maritime provinces. 

And if there is anyone out there reading this, let me know.  

 

Why Do I Keep Getting In My Own Way?

Tomorrow is January 1st and the start of a brand spanking new year.  Some people make resolutions of one sort of the other.  I have yet to decide if I will make a resolution to deal with the title of this blog.  I keep getting in my own way.   It’s as if I stick one leg out in front of the other purposely to trip myself.  Frankly I think I’ve done this for a long long time.  

When visiting friends years ago he was remarking how when they had visitors and there were immediate tasks at hand she would decide to “dust the wheels on the fridge” instead.  In other words she would take on tasks not directly related, or on the ‘critical path’ as project managers would say, to getting ready for visitors.

Is this something you do?  There is some large task or issue sitting there in your mind.  It is something you must tackle or manage but instead these other non-critical, unrelated maybe irrelevant tasks jump out in front and you say to yourself “Hey, let’s do that instead!”

If you observe your behaviour somewhat dispassionately and from a distance, then perhaps you can take steps leading to improvement.  I know, for example, if I am going on a trip, particularly a trip that involves air travel instead of packing I will undertake tasks that should have been completed months before.  I will go renew my library card, those batteries get taken to the depot to recycle and I tackle that far corner of messy stuff in the basement.  Meanwhile the packing time grows shorter and shorter.

These past few weeks I’ve been getting in my own way  a great deal.  We were having a lovely party about a month ago and would be blessed with family coming to stay with us.  Instead of making beds and setting out towels, buying groceries and doing some cooking, I decided it was crucial to re-finish the front hall bench.  The bench was picked up at a neighbourhood garage sale and has been sitting in the front hall with its original look for 8 years and now I decide to re-finish it.  And I either can’t or won’t stop myself.

 

The old look
The old look
The new "distressed" look
The new “distressed” look

I get the bench done and decide instead of getting the house ready and such, well I decide to make marmalade and chutney.  Marmalade and chutney???  Why do I need to make marmalade and chutney right now?  But I do just that as the time for guests draws nigh. Even as I’m doing it I know I should direct my attention elsewhere.

Marmalade and chutney
Marmalade and chutney

And then this week I decided I need to untangle some chunks of yarn that have, as yet, no useful purpose.  They may never end up being incorporated into a project but I sat down and put in a good 2 to 3 hours untangling that yarn.  I’ll spare you a picture of untangled yarn.  

Amongst the many sayings our mother ingrained in us was “everybody has to have a purpose”.  And like all her sayings, there’s truth to it.  Perhaps I’m expecting too much.  Not everything you do has a great or higher purpose.  Most of us will never receive Nobel Prize, be awarded the Order of Canada or Citizen of the Year or find that every task we undertake is of great import.  

One way of looking at it is family coming to stay was an impetus to re-finish a bench that  might otherwise stay in its original state.  While we never got to sending Christmas greetings this year, the marmalade and chutney were nice gifts from the kitchen and that yarn might never be used but it gives me satisfaction not to see it sitting in a tangled mess.  Maybe it’s more about giving oneself a (sometimes misguided) sense of purpose in the smallest of tasks.

For example, writing this blog this morning, has questionable purpose.  I haven’t been blogging much lately and no one is clambering to read bits of wisdom from this keyboard.  But I’ve done it anyway.

I think I’ve just talked myself out of one potential New Year’s Resolution.

Tell me, do you get in your own way?

What Do You Expect Me To Do?

In the little bubble that is my life and observations of same, there is something very weird.  Some may say, my take on it is skewed, it’s anecdotal and could not be proved in science.  Frankly, I don’t care what others may think, for as my friend Mike would say “there is a truth”.  And the truth in this instance is my believe that machinery and events conspire around me.  And they do so largely when the more mechanically minded of the two of us (and usually the purchaser) is away.   I think the machines and events converse in some dimension we never thought existed and they say “Let’s have some fun today.  Let’s break down or do something weird to make Barb think we are conspiring against her.”  And you know what, it works.  I’ve written some about this before and here we are three years later and it’s still a truth.  The thing is, the conspiracy is usually centred around something I have no understanding of or ability to fix.  Hey, I am happy when I figure out how to change batteries in the thermostat.  And if duct tape, a coat hanger and a hammer don’t work (and I’ve used them all), then I’m sunk.  I have found forcing it, though, is not always a successful plan.

My husband travels for his work on occasion. Things happen when he is gone, all the time.  Well, maybe not all the time.   Not all that long ago when he was away I noticed a new droning sound in the house.  I tromped around the place putting an ear to the fridge, downstairs to the furnace and into the laundry area thinking the washer might have decided to do a load on its own.  Nothing.  Then I opened up the door into the garage.  Attached to the ceiling is some sort of woodworking accoutrement designed, I think, to clean the air when woodworking.   It was purring away-on its own.  There is NO switch on the wall to turn this device on, it’s never turned on by itself before and there was no reason for it to turn on this time.  Guess who called to some far off place to ask said husband what was up.  As you might expect I was met with a “what do you expect me to do from here”.  Well, for one thing, tell me why this thing can be attached and assembled and sit there for 10 years before deciding to self-turn-on (when you are away).  Turning it off meant climbing up high on a step ladder and swatting the plug out of an outlet in the ceiling.

Why does this come to mind now?  Well, probably because of the for-no-reason eternally spinning wheel on the computer when I try to turn it on.  I didn’t do anything, honestly.  And I don’t plan to call to him to ask what to do.  Now, where is that hammer.

 

Have We Become Cold Weather Wimps?

It’s wintertime and here we are living with temperatures hovering around -30C.  With windchill the number goes up…I mean down.  Windchill factors the impact of the wind into the whole deal and in winter it never means warmer.  There have been some interesting comments about how Canadians are now informed about winter temperatures. 

You know you are of a certain vintage when you say “You think this is cold? Why, when  I was a kid…”.  And you blather on about things way back when. Some of it could be “retrospective bias” but that’s never stopped some of us from talking about it.  

As I sit here with my second cup of hot coffee on a morning when the windchill factor makes it feel like -35,  I am running through my memory of just how cold it was and how you knew it was cold (these memories are of winters in Saskatchewan-on the Canadian prairies):

  • there was a buffalo blanket (really!) to snuggle underneath, a wood stove and a furnace stoked by coal in our small farm house.  It was cool, cool, cool in the morning until Dad got up and got the place heated up once again.
  • Dad owned a weighty coat and hat made of buffalo hide.  I wonder now just how much that coat weighed.  
  • there was frost shield on the kitchen window in order to see when the school bus arrived.  Otherwise the window was opaque-all frosted up-from the inside.  I can’t even find a picture of a frost shield on the internet..am I THAT old?
  • clothes hung outside came back in stiff as a board
  • every winter someone stuck there tongue on some outdoor metal structure at school.
  • you had to let vehicles run for a long time before driving.  The seats were covered in some unforgiving plastic and when you sat on them it was like sitting on a block of ice.  Tires were “square” when you started to drive.  Bump, bump, bump.  Why aren’t they like that now when you start out on a winters day?
  • cardboard would be inserted between the vehicles grill and radiator so the car would   become warm enough to operate decently.  Otherwise your vehicle could freeze up when you are on the road.  With the possibility of deadly consequences.  
  • your nostrils would sort of freeze together if you inhaled too forcefully and tears…well they could freeze on your cheeks. 
  • no polartec, no HotShot handwarmers, but lots of layers and wool and mittens upon mittens.

We survived and thrived.  Without knowing about the windchill factor.

If you have known the very cold, what are your recollections?  

 Oh, and by the way I don’t plan to go out today because it’s too cold.

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A Very Busy Day For Meteorologists

I imagine this day in our local weather is something meteorologists must love.  When they stand around the water cooler at work the conversation would really be about the weather.  

“Did you see the size of that low pressure system!  I haven’t seen anything like that since 2006. “

How about that forecast of the micro-burst?  Was I accurate or what!”

“I knew that storm would track south of the lake and I predicted the rain would fall around six.  And what time did it start to fall?  Six!”

Plough wind, southeast Saskatchewan.  Need I say more?”

There’d be little chat about politics or television or movies or families.  It would be all about the weather.  Today the water cooler chat in Ottawa must be very lively.  Since the day has dawned today we have had one advisory after the other.  Sometimes we have had two advisories at once.  First there was the humidex advisory.  The temperature plus humidity was forecast to reach +41C.  Within an hour or so there was an advisory about the UV rating.  It was very high today (first time we’ve had this warning this year).  Then came the severe thunderstorm watch which turned into a warning and to cap it off we are now under a tornado watch.  

 

 

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On Monday morning there will be lots to talk about at work around the meteorologists’ water cooler in Ottawa.

I wish they would also issue tomato plant advisories.  The six plants I have in the backyard have gone from vertical to horizontal.  

Don’t Cry Because It Is Over, Smile Because It Happened

One of our dearest friends has died

He faced a relentless disease with optimism, courage and grace

 In the face of a reality that could have been consumed by despair

He rose above, giving and receiving love and support

 The disease was transparent as it never obscured

The heart and strength of this man, who lived life to the fullest

From Taoism comes a teaching of the balance of life that holds

Every life is filled with ten thousands joys and ten thousand sorrows

I choose to interpret the teaching as joys abound

And can be found in everyday life, like the small things

That culminate in a friendship that withstands all

It cannot be replaced and will for all time in memory stand

While sorrows are few, as singles, they count in hundred fold

We think of what he would want us to think and it would be

 Do not cry because it is over.  Smile because it happened

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A Mind at Work-Blogging or Dreaming

While “modern” man knows more about the human mind than was ever known in the past (at least we’d like to believe we do), we really know very little.  How do things really work upstairs anyway?  I’d like to know where the storage facility is and how to go about purging information that’s no longer needed so there’s room for more pertinent, up to date information.  Although if you could really do that then I wouldn’t have remembered Eli Sopow’s name.  The fun thing about that ‘true story’ is that Dr. Sopow contacted me after the blog!  This proves the theory that you never know when you might need something.  This thought is particularly relevant right now as I am moving through the house with renewed purpose to reduce, re-use and recycle.   I am a woman on a mission.  But I digress.  

Blogs where do the ideas come from? I fancy myself a bit of a conceptual thinker, taking concepts or events from one context and seeing if they are relevant in other circumstances.  This blog post is a case in point.   I try to make sense of things by connecting them to other things I already know-a compare and contrast effort.  It’s not for everyone but it is, as the young folk say “the way I roll”.

Dreams, where do the ideas come from?  I had a dream recently that made me think my mind treats dreams as it treats blogs.  My subconscious puts two things together and says, hey that would be a good dream.  And here it is:

A few weeks ago my friend Al posted some pictures of his younger days. He was playing a guitar.   I didn’t realize he had a musical background (and can’t find that picture now-speaking of filing things-Al, maybe you can send it along).  Around the same time there was an article in the paper about Canadian singer Jane Siberry.  Jane now plays only in small venues or people’s homes.  And my dream?  I was in someone’s house and Al was singing and playing his guitar.  He gave a very good performance and when the evening drew to a close he passed around an envelope.  I put in $30.  Good concert, Al.  Interesting dream, there, mind of mine.

Do you find your mind strings together different things to put into a dream?  Got an example you can share?