Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 28, 2019

We’ve decided that the Canadian National Exhibition will be an excursion for us to take next year, which is just as well. The last few weeks have been a bit busy for us, and an all-day trip to Toronto is something we both need to gear up for.

Let me tell you, friends, getting older is certainly not for the faint of heart.

However, lest you fear we are becoming hermits, we actually went to Toronto yesterday, to have a late lunch/early supper with some good friends, two of whom were here from another province, and one who was visiting from London, England.

A very quick digression is required here in the interest of complete transparency. We are becoming hermits, but for the most part this is by choice, and not something you need worry about at all. There’s a lot to be said for being left to our own devices in our own home.

Now, back to supper out yesterday. There is but one Cheesecake Factory Restaurant in the entire, over five million in population city formerly known as “Hog Town”, and yesterday we were there. The food is good, the portions huge, and yes, we each had a piece of cheesecake for dessert. David chose the “pineapple upside-down” cheesecake, and I—as I did the last time I was there a year ago—opted for “the original”. This is a rich, creamy-smooth cheesecake on a graham cracker crust with a thin layer of sour cream on top. No fruit or syrup, though of course there was the mandatory dollop of real whipped cream, served on the side.

I rarely indulge in dessert, but how could I not do so at a restaurant called the Cheesecake Factory?

For my main course—no appetizer or salad for me—I was in the mood for comfort food, and a dish called chicken and biscuits sounded like a good choice. I was not disappointed. It was very good—gently savory and fulfilling. Of course, I had to bring some home, because I needed to save room for that cheesecake. And my husband told me, as he took those first few bites of the meatloaf entree he ordered, that although he loves my meatloaf, I now had serious competition. I am totally fine with that. To enjoy my meatloaf, he doesn’t need to travel for more than an hour, nor pay a check when he is done.

While we’re not going to the Ex this year, we do have a fall fair in our own town, and I wasn’t at all surprised to hear my husband say that he thought he’d be going to that this year. That scooter of his has been a real blessing, allowing him the freedom to go where and when he will. He rarely cares to go any place that is not within our town. When he does, of course, I’m always happy to drive him wherever he needs to go. There is no public transit here, so it’s a matter of drive, walk, or, just recently for him, scoot.

I likely won’t bother going to the fair myself. Perhaps we’ll attend one in October, in a near-by town. I do like to go and see and do, but I find I do have to be in the mood for it. The one I’m thinking of takes place over our Thanksgiving Weekend and is a forty-minute drive from here, in the next county to the south.

David has always loved to go to our town’s end of summer fair. There are usually interesting programs offered at the grandstand—anything from tractor pulls to barrel racing to music programs, and of course, there are the tee-shirts.

Something of a tradition for him, he searches out the one vendor selling tee-shirts with outrageous sayings on them. He loves to come home with a few that he will then wear as he goes out and about, hoping for reactions to the words painted on his chest. While at the fair, he avoids the midway, as do I when I go. Neither of us care for either the rides nor the games. Those two areas are great money-makers for the amusement company, but a huge cash pit for the rest of us.

Our kids always were drawn to the rides and games of course, and they would be told to save their allowance so that they could indulge themselves each Labor Day weekend. We always provided some money but like all kids they wanted more. We’d remind them at the beginning of the summer that more was their responsibility. When we first moved to town, they were old enough to go to the fair on their own—ah, the relative innocence of those earlier times! That was an exciting revelation for them. We’d moved from a rural area to a town and going to the fair our first weekend here a nice surprise for them and helped to ease the transition to a new home.

This small town of ours will be a very busy place beginning today, until the fair closes on Labor Day, but we’re used to it. We no longer have children going to school, and only one grandson who’s a student, this year a senior in high school. Labor Day on the horizon had always meant the beginning of the end of summer for us, with that back to school Tuesday. But again this year, as we did last year, we felt that seasonal change in the air last week. Mother Nature has no respect for the human calendar.

Life has a rhythm and a routine. It’s really best when you can sense it, and slip into it, and feel comfortable and at peace in the doing.


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 21, 2019

When I was a kid, I always considered the beginning of the end of summer to be when the “Ex” opened. That day this year was August 16—last Friday. And by the “Ex”, I mean the Canadian National Exhibition, held each year in Toronto.

When I was a teen, my mother and I would go every other year, and yes, I understood even then that we went for me. In those days, her arthritis had already taken hold—osteoarthritis, the same as I have—and walking was painful for her, though she didn’t have a cane at that point.

She liked to plan to go to the Ex on International Food Day (I don’t even know if that’s a thing anymore) because at lunch time, you could sate yourself on all the free samples offered in the Food Building, and save your money for the more important things—like rides and games. (Feel free to insert the rolling-eyes emoji here.) Or, in my mother’s opinion, a nice sit-down and be served supper.

I recall one surprising time when mom parked the car on the Exhibition grounds, and who parked at the same time, in the same row, and about three cars down? My brother and his wife. We hadn’t known they were going to the Ex that day, but it was kind of good for all of us. My sister-in-law liked going on rides, and so did I at the time (this was in the days when we were both childless). But neither my brother nor my mother did. So we arranged to meet up later in the afternoon, and Rose and I rode our brains out while my mother and brother sat at a picnic table, had coffee, and relaxed. That’s a particularly fond memory for me, because I lost my enjoyment in rides after I had my first child, which was only about four years later.

I’ve had a lot of fun times at the exhibition. Some of them were unexpected ones, too.

My late good friend—a man who taught high school at the school I graduated from, and with whom I had worked to produce the annual area science fair for elementary (K-8) pupils, talked me into going to the Ex once. He’d already been diagnosed with cancer, though he was still fairly pain free. There were a couple of things specifically he wanted to check out at the Ex, he’d said. He didn’t like going alone, and his wife refused to go after having witnessed a fatal accident at one of the Air Shows there. I had a day off work, and so I accompanied him. As it turned out, what he wanted to check out was something he’d told me later had been on his bucket list.

He was the only person on the face of this earth who could have gotten me on that scary-ass roller coaster, The Flyer, which, it turned out, had been the entire point of the excursion. He’d recalled that I didn’t do rides anymore, and he thought I needed to do one more, and with him. He laughed when I screamed, and then after, we had a glass of beer at the Bavarian Beer Garden. It still touches my heart, when I think on it, that doing something with me had been on his bucket list near the end of his life.

Going once more to this end-of-summer celebration is an possibility that, until this year and the arrival of our scooters was entirely out of the question. The site itself is way too big for us to simply walk it. We’ve discussed going—the last day it’s on is Labor Day—and we still might do that this year. I’ll try to remember to take some pictures if we do. A side note—I’m horrendously bad at remembering to take pictures. For any who are interested, here’s a link to the web-site for the Canadian National Exhibition (aka the CNE or, simply, the EX):

I’m not sure I know where the summer has gone, but then lately, I never do. It always seems to speed by so much faster than does winter. I know that’s all perception on my part. The thing is, I’m beginning to see where perception does indeed become reality.

And why, as you get older, it’s so much easier to sit out the dances that are sometimes offered.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 14, 2019

How do we cope with cruelty? And in this instance, I mean not so much the cruelty that may be inflicted upon us, but the cruelty we witness inflicted upon others in the world around us, and sometimes witnessed day after day via our televisions.

These are shocking and difficult times, my friends. The lid of Pandora’s box is standing ajar—not fully removed, but open just enough for some evils and ugliness to escape and affect the weak and the willing.

Witnessing it, we gasp, and sometimes we feel as if our hearts are going to throb right out of our chests. How do we cope, and how do we hold on to our own souls as this chaos reigns around us?

It can be difficult for those of us who believe in God, who have faith in the Almighty, regardless of our religion, to reconcile the images we see around us with that faith we hold so dear. Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the basic goodness of humanity.

I believe that when this era that we are currently attempting to navigate has come to an end, and on into the future, there will be reams of books written, describing these times, warning of the horrific results of living life in fear and hatred and giving in to our most vile instincts. There will be new emotional disorders named for what some people have gone through, for the affects of the emotional roller-coaster they’ve been forced to ride. I truly believe that.

As with anything in life, we have a choice right now. We can allow the images and what they represent to assail us, non-stop as we wring our hands and bemoan the state of our society; or we can identify ways in which we can take action. I don’t truly suggest closing one’s eyes, eliminating all input from the news media. You can’t let yourself be ignorant to what’s happening in the world, or your country, or your community. You must, to some extent, stand as a witness to the assaults on human rights, the attacks on human dignity, and the attempts to dismantle the institutions that bind your society together. If you don’t see it, and understand it, you are defenseless to prevent it from happening again. And I am sorry to tell you, at some point, it will happen again.

I recall, growing up, the near constant warnings from those older and wiser telling us that if we do not stand guard on our freedoms, someone will try to take them away from us. These times in which we are living are the times against which we were warned!

You need to look reality dead in the eye and know that there’s a point at which inaction equals complicity. Period.

To counter that, you must, where you can, look for the beauty, the good deeds, those awe-inspiring moments where the resiliency of the human heart and the human spirit shine through. There are a lot of moments out there, waiting for you to discover them.

You can get involved your area, seeing to it that you take whatever action you can to nudge your neighbors and friends into being alert and on guard, and most importantly, participating in the choices of who amongst you are elected to serve, to carry out the people’s business in your democracy and in your name. Yes, you must vote!

And there is one more thing you can do.

You can answer bullying with kindness; racism with a spirit of inclusion; fear with joy; hate with love. You can confront lies with the truth, and you can find others of like mind and like heart and form a bulwark against the evil and the chaos that, if not guarded against, can and will swamp you.

It becomes difficult, sometimes, to feel optimism, to believe that any kind of decency will ever prevail. But it will. It does. It has from the beginning of our civilization, and it really will again. No, we won’t go back to the way it has been, in our not-so-distant past, exactly. But that might not be a completely bad thing. We may emerge from this nightmare we are living shaken, and more conscious of how delicate this balance of life is and can be.

But that can truly make us stronger and wiser. And any way you cut it, stronger and wiser are two conditions that always lead to something good.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wednesday's Words for August 7, 2019

I believe in personal responsibility. More, I believe in assuming responsibility for my words as well as my deeds. What I do, I take responsibility for. That’s not to say that I am not open to outside influence. I know for a fact I am—and was even more so, when I was in my twenties.

Here is the reason I know that: When we were married for yet a short time, and our first child was still a baby, we were struggling. In fact, if you asked me to pick a word that suited our first, oh, twenty years of marriage, that word would be ‘struggling’. There wasn’t much money, ever, and as our family grew, as layoffs came and went, I have to tell you, it was bad at times.

We paid the bills—late, a lot of the time, but they were paid. Food came first as we had to feed the kids. Personal spending money? Entertainment allowance? Ha! We did get to the point where we could rent movies from Block Buster. They had a deal, two movies and then one free for the weekend. The kids would pick them. We’d make popcorn, and had soda (no-name soda, aka poverty pop). As things got a bit better, my husband and I each claimed 20 dollars every two weeks and would spend that at the bookstore. We could each buy 2 or 3 books. After we read our books, we swapped and read each other’s.

We got through. And when in those early years we were given something free – wow, that was special! And one of the things we got free was two tickets to attend the Miss Nude World Pageant that was held at one of the area’s “nature camps”. We went, even though I really was a bit of a prude in those days.

David loved it (of course he did. He was a 20-something Y chromosome carrier). As the afternoon progressed at this outdoor event, at one point, I turned and looked behind me (we were sitting only a few rows up in the stands) and discovered that half of the people I was sitting with were naked! The shock was enormous, but not enough to make me leave. And as the afternoon progressed, and it was a very warm summer day with only a slight breeze, and my satiny top was sticking to my back, I began the reasoning process that would probably have led me to taking my top off—and my bra, too. I came close….only inner cowardice stopped me. But I know myself well enough to say that on another day, I would have surrendered to the outside influence and stripped. In public, of a sort.

So yes, personal responsibility, but also, strong outside influences do impact people. They impact some people more than others. It depends on several variables. Not all people are strong willed enough to resist influences. Why do we insist our kids don’t hang around other kids who are getting into trouble? Because we know that the influence of others can be strong. We want to spare our kids the struggle or, if we know our kids aren’t of a sufficiently deeply ingrained good character, the temptation of taking the wrong path.

I believe when someone picks up a weapon, then they are responsible for what happens next. But I also know, that they could have been influenced to pick up that weapon. And when someone in power, someone who’s a symbol of authority says something is ok—or if they infer that it is by their words and attitude, and this they can indicate in many ways—then that encourages some “like minded” people to bring their previously hidden desires, beliefs, whatever, out into the open.

If someone hears their leader declare a certain ethnicity to be “invaders”, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that someone somewhere will take action to repel that invasion. Now, a couple of minor leaders declared that the root cause of the violence so recently perpetrated is mental illness, video games and social media—those old stand-by scapegoats—but definitely not the words of dear leader. Really? They really said that? Well, my question then is this.

Do those moronic minor leaders understand that their blaming of the outside influences of games and media actually means that they are conceding the role of outside influences in the recent spate of mass shootings? They should have stuck to the tried but true, “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

We are all responsible for our own actions: and when we’re on the stage of life, in a position of leadership and authority, it behooves us to temper our words. Words matter. It’s not rocket science to understand that. 

Words matter, because we know that our words have the power to influence others—for good, most certainly, but also for evil.