Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Stimulus Package

The only thing missing amidst all the bickering about an economic stimulus package is creative thinking and common sense. So I will give you the ‘creative thinking’ and leave the ‘common sense’ to someone else.

Now first of all the carry on makes me wonder if Canada and America have never known hard times in the past. But I know better. There were the dirty thirties (which I missed out on) but times were tough when I was a kid as well. And one could hardly call the two large cartons of tinned meat of questionable origin that the government handed out a stimulus package. Still it was much appreciated and as we ate sandwiches we had time to ponder how to salvage the house my Dad built after the fire, from foreclosure.

We attacked the problem by ‘clustering or bunching up’. That, of course, was before privacy became a big deal and cocooning came into vogue. And before lawmaking erupted from government hill like an overactive volcano, melting and crushing the natural God-given empowerment of mankind’s own initiative and instinct to survive.

So long ago, before government legislation forgave us any responsibility for our own difficulties, homeowners falling behind on mortgages, cleared out the small space under their stairwell, where they installed a cot and advertised for a boarder. Others cleaned out basements or attics and rented them out.

This was the initiative of so many for a solution during depressed times. But you see, this was a time when more thought was given to practical needs that the thought of privacy. This was not a time of luxuries. Luxuries were not in season. And privacy was a luxury.

Returning to my father’s situation, he decided he would find a renter. And that is exactly what he did. He cleared out a corner upstairs in the boys’ attic-room and an old fellow who needed a place to live, moved in. Later, when the old guy died or moved out (can’t remember now), and the elder boys went to work, my father partitioned a corner of the living room for the youngest boy’s bedroom and made an upstairs suite that my eldest sister and her family occupied. Our living space was reduced and some of these quarters were quite cramped but the bit of rent was enough of an added ‘stimulus’ to keep afloat.

Others of our country-neighbors created small additions to house elderly parents, not so much to prevent the pains of separation, but because the small pensions their elders received served in like manner to stimulate their household economy.

Even before Hub and I owned a home and lived in rental quarters we often ended up with boarders of our own bunking on the couch. The sub-letting gave us a few more dollars that were sorely needed. And yes, there were annoyances and grievances that occasionally stemmed from this kind of clustering, but if nothing else, it was a great lesson in patience and tolerance.

So now I shake my head in dismay at stimulus packages being handed out so two people can retain a house with enough space and enough rooms to easily accommodate 30 people. In my math books, 30 (no. of people) x $1000 (conservative rent) = a monthly stimulus/mortgage assist of $30,000.

Unfortunately, although this looks so good on paper, we can’t go back there. Most practical reason we can’t is because legislation prevents home-owners from inspecting renter’s space without permission. And legislation prevents them from evicting the slovenly, dysfunctional, or irresponsible. And legislation defines a thousand other considerations to do with fire escapes, privates entrances, window dimensions, etc. that impedes such considerations.

The despair of it all is that there are virtually no responsibilities left up to the discretion of individuals. No affirmation by government that people are born with a drop of sense. And without that affirmation, is it any wonder individuals and business owners find themselves in Economic Sinkholes?

And so the ‘community cooperation’ that once saved us from ourselves, that kept us in the know as to what others were doing, has been burned on the altar of ‘our right to privacy’. The new order is, ‘I don’t care what others are doing that is cruel, vicious, or evil, as long as what they do does not impact on me and my right to privacy'.

And so suspended in our private space, not only are homes repossessed, but without omnipresent landlords, dysfunctional behavior can easily hide and we are not aware until too late that sickos are putting bodies in freezers and children are missing.

And so, for reasons of privacy protection (with a strong foothold that only continues to strengthen), we can never return to clustering. How can we when we know nothing of the character of people that walk down the front walk every day for years on end?

In conclusion, I am reminded of a thought expressed by someone, somewhere, that the greenest of green is being able to live with what one has rather than what one wants. That’s how people turned red to green (monetarily, and even environmentally) the last time hard times hit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happenings and Consequences

I’ve never given a lot of thought to positive or negative mind control, except for some loosely-knit and conflicting notions in a dusty corner of my mind.

In a bland-thinking way, I’ve always thought that ‘if’ faith-healing happens, a part of that happening is the placebo of positive thought. Yet alternatively (though some doctors are avid proponents of positive thinking), I dispel the belief that patients can fight physical illness with positive thinking. Agreed, it is beneficial, but only as an add-on to medical cures.

Unfortunately, what the doctor-proponents of this belief fail to say is how many of the cases cured by positive thought are psychosomatic, and how many are not. But here the discussion becomes an enigma because patients don’t know, and doctors cannot say with any certainty, which illnesses stem from the mind and which stem from the body. It is no different than the argument about which came first – the chicken, or the egg? Did a distressed mind initially lead to the disease, or did the disease precede the distressed mind?

I’ll agree it is beneficial to be positive but I’m not convinced that one can create an imaginary army of warriors that can fight, without medical assistance, arthritic pain, a killer toothache, stomach flu, or even more serious problems. If that were true, it would make us all way too responsible for how we feel for me to accept it. (Especially since every one else has psychosomatic ailments, but not me!). Besides which, with my wild thinking, the imaginative cure would give me a bloody unfair advantage over others who only deal in reality.

This discussion is going somewhere, I’m just not sure where. But that last thought brings something else to mind that I must tell you. And that is how much I hate that old saying, ‘that everything happens for a reason.’ I just can’t swallow it. Or even understand the reasoning in it. I can accept that ‘some things happen for a reason’ but not ‘everything’.

I have seen too many innocent children and kindly adults go through horrors that are way beyond any reason. Maybe I misinterpret the saying, but to me this phrase, in plainer language, says, ‘Everyone gets what they deserve.’ And if that means bad acts get bad consequences, I’m okay with that, but if it means that bad consequences are a result of reasonable actions because down the road the whole matter will be reversed in a beneficial way, I have a serious problem with that. How much pain must one endure while they are waiting, within a limited lifetime, for the next flip flop?

I don’t know if you can make a bit of sense out of what I just said, but nevertheless we continue.

As for me, I don’t do astrology, and I am not superstitious. Although again, I guess I am – in a bland-thinking sort of way. So often bloggers are in a similar state of yen that I can only chalk up the similarity to the positioning of stars and planets.

Climate can not cause the phenomena, because of the variations throughout the globe. Calendar time has to be dismissed as a possible link if there is no direct influence at the time of a widely celebrated holiday. So what’s left to cause this duplication of mood and thinking, except ocean tides and planets? So I guess, in an oblique way, I do delve in astrology.

And I insist I am not superstitious. I do not walk around ladders, I don’t give black cats a thought or broken mirrors, but I do have an uneasy moment every time I check the calendar and find Friday, the 13th staring me in the face. I don’t become quivery or panicky, but you won’t find me on an airplane, or a long road trip that day, when I have 364 other days to choose from.

Now this prologue, I felt was necessary, before I say what I really wanted to say today which is very brief. I wanted to say it to you yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. I wanted to say it last week, last month, last year and the year before that. I wanted to say it this morning, this afternoon, this evening. It seems like forever I have felt the retching need to say it like a nasty vomiting urge, but I refused to say it. And I guess, truth is, I couldn’t say it because of positive-thinking reasons, astrological reasons, and superstitious reasons.

I just think by saying it, acknowledging it, I will make it chronic and give it everlasting life. I am leery to say it and that leeriness is somehow tied indirectly to all that I have just told you. To say it erases whatever good comes from positive thinking. To say it is to acknowledge that I am superstitious and have some kind of foolish superstitious-thinking connected to the admission.

But I don’t care. I bloody don’t care. Today I will bloody out with it. I can hold it back no longer. I just can’t.

What I’ve so wanted to tell you is…“I am tired.” Not physically unwell, just really tired.

And if this is happening for a reason, as in ‘everything happens for a reason’, then I have a problem with that as well. The obvious reason is I am getting old. The ‘happening’ is ‘tired’. The ‘reason’ is ‘old’.

So now, for the people that accept this phrase and use this phrase and believe in this phrase, is not your devotion to the phrase connected to a comfort that you draw from it? Is that not true? Well, for me there is nothing comforting about it.

Man, why did I do this? Now tomorrow I’ll be way more tired than I am today.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Discovery No. 2

So now we come to Discovery No. 2.

Now I have two lovely easels and paints in every corner of this house – watercolors, acrylics, water soluble crayons, oils, and I am so ashamed to say, I haven’t touched them for eons. I used to paint with acrylics when the kids were babes but since then I’ve painted nothing except walls and ceilings and window-frames.

It’s been so long but nevertheless I want to paint something really nice without wasting my lovely acrylics and oils. So I guess watercolors are the best thing to use for my halting re-entry into artistic endeavors even though acrylics are the medium I am most comfortable with.

Still, after such a long hiatus, I know there is going to be too much paint wasted in the process so I will reserve my acrylics and oils for the works of perfection that will eventually follow. That does make sense, doesn’t it?

Now my watercolor Guide Book tells me the paper needs to be wet and then stuck taut to a surface so that when it dries it will not wrinkle. That’s very cute, isn’t it? Just how does one stick a sloppy wet piece of paper to anything?

It ain’t gonna’ happen. And in the past, when I’ve tried it, the paper still dried as wrinkled as a fried overshoe. In fact, even in art shows, the experts must be having problems because too often beyond the frame and the glass is a wavy piece of warped paper. The process obviously isn’t working that well for others either.

So we will have to find a new approach.
And in pondering that new approach, I find myself thinking about the container of bum wipes Eldest Daughter left here last time her and wee Grandson came a callin’.

They are wet. Wet enough for water colors to blend and flow and smudge and make wonderful magical nuances of color that are so unexpected. And I have a strong suspicion that when those bum wipes dry, they will dry flat without taping or pressing or anything else for that matter. So in 2 seconds flat, I paint a test piece.

And Voila! How amazing is that? We have another new discovery!

The painting is no Vincent van Gogh, but still it’s a start.

All I need now is some bigger bum wipes – something like 16 x 34 inches. So I can do a big painting—a painting with undeniable presence.

Oh how long it takes me to discover these things? And the reason it took me so long is because I was trained to do things the ‘proper way’. In my youth I tried way too hard to do things according to the rules. So many times I could have moved on but I stopped because I felt compelled to do everything the way others did it. You know – the way it is supposed to be done.

But no more! And I love, love, love, this unexpected freedom to do things without the slightest concern about how others do them or if I am doing them right.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Discovery No. 1

This has been a week of discoveries. But rather than rant on much too long, I will simply offer you one at a time. So here is my story of Discovery # 1.

This morning, after breakfast, I was putting photos into albums when I found some old negatives and after hopelessly trying to make out the images stored on them, I headed for the trash can.

“Why should I keep these? Someday soon, very soon, I won’t be able to get reprints even if I want to. In fact, that might be the case, already.”

But, as is so often the case, when I get to the trash can, I am forced to halt and reconsider. Maybe not? So I took the negatives back to the kitchen table and spread them out to consider once more if I should stash them or trash them.

Now it just so happens, that as I contemplated the matter, I remembered a little monocle-mini viewer that is more than 50 years old originally intended for viewing slides without a table-top projector. I dug it out. In the box, along with the viewer, were a few old slides mounted in cardboard, so using one as a template, I made a similar frame that I could insert my negatives into.

Then one at a time, with the viewer held up to a sunny window (no batteries or internal light is this piece of plastic), I inserted my negatives into the viewer.

Now I was able to make out the picture details and found several negatives that I should have copies of, but don’t.

Then I got a notion to take my digital camera and apply the lense of it to the eyepiece of the viewer and see if I could take a picture. The picture was clear, but what good is a picture with inverted colors? But I’ll still not trash those pictures. Instead I transferred my digital recreations of the negatives to a Photo Program on the computer and commanded it to ‘invert’ the image.

Voila! The pictures were instantly transformed into images of quality. I printed them off on glossy photo paper and I was amazed. Indeed I was! How amazing is that? Right here in my own space, I can develop negatives into prints without trays, dark rooms, or whatever kind of slop that photographers use. How great is that?

P.S. I thought Hub's cabin was pretty rustic, but obviously it's pretty posh compared to this one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Still A Valentine's Hit!

The other day we made a trip even more dreaded, than the dreaded trip to town. We did the long haul. A trip to the city!

Now part of my dismay in making long car trips is the discomfort of sitting on the low seats in the car. My knees and legs cramp, my back aches, my hip complains, and then for days thereafter all these body parts sustain sympathy pains that lead to chronic discomfort for a long time.

But that’s not all. When we hit the road for a long haul, Hub drives at a ruthless speed while I grip the arm-rests in the car, and hang on for dear life. Complaining diplomatically or non-diplomatically is of no help. Hub sets in his mind an agenda of arrival and departure that he MUST meet, or beat (which is even so much better).

But I have discovered one thing. The only cure is distraction. If I can manage to distract him with a provocative story that baits his interest, he eases up on the gas feed.

So on the way to the big city, as we blew in and out of the small communities and towns along the way, I could not help but notice the overflow in shop windows of Valentine goods. Chocolates, flowers, lace hearts, bandit bears, satin negligees, etc. And in shop windows, and on sandwich-boards and bill-boards, bold-lettered reminders for Valentine suppers, dances, and suggestions for honoring the day.

Unable to find subject matter for a story that could grip Hub’s attention, I was close to tears with fear at the incredible speed that we were traveling on the open highway. When the car went into a skid on an icy corner, I felt such panic I was now grasping at straws.

At this point I lightly touched Hub’s arm and said, “Listen to me, Hub. I’m going to only say this once, and you best be paying attention.”

So now I’ve got his attention and quick, quick, I must say something that will distract him from the foot-feed. Then with no forethought, out of my mouth came this clumsy verse:

“You can forget my Birthday,
And I won’t give a twit
You can ignore me at Christmas,
I’ll not get in a snit,
Our Anniversaries - forgotten,
I don’t give a rip,
But Valentine’s Day
I NEED to know…
I’m (still) a HIT!”

That wee bit worked like a magic chant. Hub eased up on the gas immediately.

Suddenly we slowed to a reasonable speed and for once in my lifetime I didn’t have to tell a long story of excitement and daring equal to a Clint Eastwood Movie for him to continue down the road at a slower pace.

As for me, my mind went from terror to relieved confidence in his driving as we continued our trip with him driving like a senior should drive – smoothly, cautiously, carefully – contemplating with fascination, no doubt, the provocation of what I had just said. Road noise diminished and all I could hear now was the slow grate of wheels turning in his head.


And what did Hub give his Valentine? A pair of lovely new hiking boots! Guess I’m still a HIT!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Truth or Fiction

In the past, we’ve pretty well covered it all. Why we blog, when we blog, how we blog. We’ve discussed the inner therapy of a sad rant, and the external therapy of a glad rant. But, what we haven’t discussed is truth vs. fiction.

Now, three years ago, maybe more, I was addicted to a blog. I don’t know how many fans that blog had, but with the amount of daily comments it received, it was a huge crowd.

As for me, I started reading it with reluctance but soon the writer and I started to gel. She seduced me into seeing through my conservative eyes the realities of her much more liberal mind. And with each subsequent reading, I began to feel things I hadn’t expected to feel. Strong sentiments of pity, love, and understanding, even though her lifestyle was abhorrent to me.

But then came that unforgettable day when it was revealed the blog was a game of pretend. And with that, it was also revealed that she was a ‘he’. And so, although that didn't diminish the value of an expertly cloned reality, readers went bizerk. They berated the author mercilessly. They stubbornly refused to read more. The comments were angry and bitter. And in real life, if ready access could have been achieved, I’m certain the throng would have stoned the author in the marketplace.

And so the author moved to a new site with a masculine identity. ‘He’ continued to tell real-life-sounding stories that made the best of the English Classics seem like shambling prose. But despite all that, his readership bottomed out.

I couldn’t understand it. To me it mattered no more to the beauty and soul of the author than it mattered to me (when I was a child), that a man named Dodgson wrote “Alice in Wonderland”, rather than Lewis Carroll.

Now you don’t have to read much of my blog to know that I generally write true-to-life stuff seasoned with internalized and imaginative thoughts. So I assume my two readers expect to find a continuation of that kind of truth here, rather than fiction. Having said that, I will now disclose what prompted this rant.

In my most recent post “Match-Holders and Candy”, I cloned fact-filled reality and then, when I had the reader’s attention, I eventually ‘fessed up that it was a mere dream.

So, in light of that and all I have just told you, what’s your perspective on truth vs. fiction? At the conclusion of my rant, did you feel like a stoning in the marketplace? Or, at the very least, did you want to do as Dick suggested one should do with discourteous store clerks…

“…Seize the oaf [that would be me]by the collar, pull him [her] over the counter top and back through the door then insert him [her] head down into whatever containers there might be outside - water-butt, trash can, feed tub…”, etc.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Match-Holders and Candy

When outfitting a rustic cabin, it is important that everything be representative of those earlier memories of coal-oil lamps, wood stoves, and rag-braided rugs.

And when that cabin is only 12’ x 16’, it becomes equally important to concentrate on a simple d├ęcor to keep the walls from closing in. So I am really glad I had that old futon in the basement that so beautifully replicates an old Winnipeg couch. And I am really glad we have a lovely old wood stove. I am also glad we have a small table and simple chairs.

So the cabin is cozy and comfortable, and surprisingly roomy. A lovely place to light a fire and have a cozy nap.

But I still think about other things that are missing. And what I think about most often is the little tin match holder that hung near the stove when I was the kid. Other things on the walls were rotated. Stained pictures pulled down and replaced. Calendars recycled that marked the passing of time. But the little match-holder stayed and stayed – for a lifetime. And so, often when I am in the cabin, I think about how much I need a little tin match-holder.

But then, low and behold, I was in a hardware store and what did I find? A little metal match-box holder. It was a small plate glazed with blue and white enamel like old tin cups used to be. A rectanguler match-box holder of the same material was secured in the middle. And on that, was the upper half of a little tin-man, crudely painted with yellow shirt and a brown hat as if standing behind a counter and in his hand he held a ordinary wooden match.

It was no work of art. It was crudely constructed, but in my youth, such things were often crude. And I expect the crudeness of the thing, just made it more appealing.

Still I rotated it in my hands for a time while contemplating if it would fill the need I had for rustic match-box holder. When I finally decided to buy it, and took it to the counter, it was four minutes past closing time. The clerk, with hat and coat thrown over the counter, glared at me, then his watch, and then at me. And if looks could kill, his watch would have stopped abruptly.

I apologized profusely while trying to hurriedly dig out the money for my purchase. But as is so often the case, hurry only causes further delay. And that is exactly what happened. In my flurry, I dropped my car-keys. I didn’t even see what direction they went so while on my hands and knees searching for them, the clerk bagged my purchase and with loud foot taps and deep huffing sighs of impatience, waited for me to pay him.

Eventually I got myself in good order. Car-keys retrieved, payment made, bag in hand, and out the door I went with the clerk’s shoes treading on my heels and his breath still huffing in disgust down the back of my neck.

But even that could not spoil my excitement over my new-found treasure.

And now, I will try desperately to keep myself together while I tell you the rest. I hurried home and called Hub to the kitchen to show him what I had bought. I pulled my purchase out of the bag only to find it had changed. I didn’t see it happen, but I know what happened.

Here I should tell you that the impatient clerk has a well-known reputation for his lack of civility toward smokers. This man is at the forefront of anything that can negate smokers’ rights. He doesn’t hug trees, or children, or pets. His only mandate is to campaign against smokers even if it means going into hideaways in back alleys to confront them.

And so while I was scrounging down on the floor for my car-keys, he snapped off the end of the little tin-man’s match on my match-holder and replaced it with a small candy and a gob of quick-dry goo.

I am pissed, and don't I have a right to be?

Hub fails to understand the thrill it gave me when I found that little match-holder. He laughs, and I could bloody wring his neck. Like where is the humor in this? They both need help – he and that brain-dead clerk.

I would have happily repaired the thing some way. Returned it to its original state with a new match and goo, but by then the fire had died out in the cook stove. I woke up to find the cabin was getting uncomfortably cool and with only a candy on a stick to restart the fire, there was no point in staying in the cabin any longer.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The 'Home Party' Review

There is something I dread even more than the dreaded trip to town. And that would be ‘Home Parties’. You know—the ones with the ‘hostess’, the ‘ladies’, and the ‘rep’.

I went to one today. I did so. I splashed on a big smile, and with inner misgivings, I draped myself in a disguise of pleasantness and pleased excitement.

Now I don’t know what it is that irritates me so bad about home parties. I think it’s the layers of obligation involved.

First of all, I am obligated to go because my friend, who is so kind to me in every way, has particularly asked me to go. I am obligated to be happy, because nobody wants a sullen participant. I am obligated to listen to a semi-truthful spiel from the ‘rep’, that is most irritating.

I am obligated to play a game or two. I am obligated to be quiet about the unfairness of the game, because no matter how many points anyone gets, they will not get enough to win a prize, without booking another party.

I am obligated to avoid expressing my outrage at prices far beyond reason. I am obligated to support false notions and tell lies and express ‘favorable’ falsehoods about products that are nothing more than crap. And the rule of the day is I must buy something! I can’t just simply party, and browse, and leave.

And furthermore, I am obligated to buy stuff I neither want nor need. And I am obligated to cost those purchases within a boundary of flattery for my friend, the hostess, and some invisible mesh that defines the whole ritual.

No matter what is outside my beliefs or convictions, I am obligated to be a gracious hypocrite about it. Because what makes a ‘Home Party’ such a grand party, is each of us collectively fulfilling all the painful obligations.

And then what happens when I head for the door after today’s party? As I make my way to my car, my friend calls out to me…

“Roberta, wait! Before you go, I need to tell you. Don’t forget my candle party on the 15th!”
I strongly suspect that every participant at a Home Party comes masking their irritation with academy-award winning performances. And, because of this, I want to ask my friends, why they have home-parties. But forgive me for that thought. Another of my obligations, is not to ask.

And so I can only ponder the question within myself. It can’t be for the chintzy hostess-gifts. And if it is for the socializing, there are other ways and means. At least there were before the birth of Home Parties.

Once the ‘Home Party’ was introduced, female populaces in this area were deceived into thinking that without the add-ons of a ‘rep’, ‘products’, and ‘sales’, a simple brunch and yak session is meaningless. Quite silly, actually.

And so, as much as I would like to have a simple brunch with friends and neighbors, the Home Party consciousness is the first impediment. The second is if I were to host a simple brunch, it would be seen as a blatantly rude affront to the hostesses of ‘home parties’.

Those considerations aside, there is something else that I think connects in some oblique way to the ‘Home Party’ philosophy. The way I personally react to a sales-free invitation, like a ‘fun day’ or ‘spring frolic’. I read those invitations with a strong sense of non-obligation and freedom to decline. I MUST attend the ‘Home Parties’, but the others—no prob. I can sidestep those occasions if I feel the slightest disinclination to attend. It doesn’t seem right but that’s how it is.

But what bothers me the most about ‘Home Parties’ is that in one short afternoon I have gone from a person of integrity to a counterfeit. Acting out so many lies with my most intimate friends. And even worse, there is nothing I could have done differently to avoid it.