Clutter I Collect

Do I collect anything? Why, yes I do. ANYTHING being the operative word here. If I like it, I collect it. Sometimes even if I don’t like it much I find myself hanging on to it anyway. One day I could have a monstrous garage sale of all my collected things and it would have no recognizable theme whatsoever.

Every so often I ‘uncollect’ a great number of collected items though. Otherwise I might find myself buried underneath them, never again to surface. I give things away, or lend them, or toss them or stuff them out of sight and forget about them.

I gave or threw away all but the most special of toys after my kids grew up, but found myself collecting them again for my grandchildren. After 10 years of this there’s of course way too many of them, but I’m not sure what should stay and what should go. Maybe there’s something treasured and cherished in there for any one of them, and getting rid of it could prove emotional and traumatic and they would never forgive me. It’s more likely that they’ll all simply remember grandma’s toy room as being filled with junk and that they had hardly any room to turn around.

But still, just in case. Best to wait until they’re at least in their teens, or maybe even have kids of their own This plan appeals to me mostly because adhering to it means that I don’t have to do anything about the mess right now.

I have a lot of African things, and a lot of books. Those things I love, as much as it’s possible to love inanimate objects. I would miss them if they were gone. The rest, not so much.

Last week I threw out three beat up muffin tins my mother gave me. They were in really bad shape and I decided they just weren’t something it made sense to hang on to for the sentimental value. So they got dumped in the bin. A couple of days later I bought a brand new teflon muffin tin, because living without at least one muffin tin is apparently something I’m uncomfortable doing.

But it WAS three for one. So that must mean I’m ahead of the game. At least in the bakeware department. I’m working on the rest. Some projects are lifelong, and I’ve accepted that the de-clutter process is probably one of them.

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Sentiments from Scents

My maternal grandfather died when I was nine years old. If anyone explained to me the nature of his illness, I don’t remember what was said. There were hushed whispers about cancer for a long time, but he continued to live at home and grandma was taking care of him. If I thought much about it at all, I guess I just assumed that he would eventually get well.

Our grandparents lived mostly on one side of our house, although my grandma never took anyone else’s privacy too seriously. So I didn’t take hers seriously either. I would go skipping into their bedroom whenever I pleased to visit and talk and generally make a nuisance of myself. Grandma had potted plants all over the house and had moved a bunch of them into the bedroom so she could fuss over them without leaving grandpa alone. So it never smelled like a sick room as much as it did a flower garden. Perhaps she was giving him a little preview of things to come. Seeing grandpa so sick made me sad, but listening to grandma just made me mad. Even if he was half asleep she never shut up, ranting and raving about everything non-stop. Later I understood that it was her strange way of coping with a situation over which she had little control. But my nine-year old self wondered why grandpa put up with it. Maybe he liked the noise and it kept him rooted in this world a little longer than he would have stayed if he’d been left in peace and allowed to slip away in silence.

Ultimately it wasn’t the cancer that killed him anyway. He fell down the stairs. Terrible, tragic accident, everyone said. It crossed my mind that he might finally have been attempting some kind of getaway and if that was so, it was certainly one that stuck. He never regained consciousness and passed away in the hospital.

His was the first funeral I ever attended. It was just like a church service, except a lot more weird. There were flowers on the casket, and along the walls, and on pillars and posts and framing doorways and on tables and on the floor. I assumed they were to cheer up my grandma. They were everywhere. The room was too warm, and the smell was over-powering.

During the service my brother told me to stare really hard at grandpa’s face. If I did that and didn’t blink and kept doing it until my eyes hurt, I’d see him move. Well that was too tempting not to try, so I did it until my eyes burned. I was about to give up and kick my brother for being such an ass when suddenly I saw my grandpa take a breath. Even though I knew it wasn’t possible, it made me gasp. And take in a lungful of the sickening sweet and cloying scent of a gazillion flowers.

I felt all hot and cold and shuddery, and I tugged on my mom’s arm and told her I was going to throw up. She glared at me and told me I WAS NOT going to do that. So I didn’t. But it was a struggle. Finally kicking my brother really hard helped take my mind off it.

My whole life flowers have been something I always associate with grandma (because she loved them more than anything, possibly even grandpa) and of course with funerals. I know I’m supposed to be all thrilled to get a bouquet for a special occasion, but the truth is, the smell makes me nauseous. I like them just fine when they’re alive and growing outside in the open air. But when you cut them, they’re just going to die. I carried an artificial bouquet at my wedding. Not a good time to be flouncing about carrying something that makes you want to puke.

I understand the appeal of a great big smelly old flower arrangement, and if I get one I try to be adult about things and tolerate it.

But seriously, I just don’t like them much, mostly for how they smell. Floral perfumes and air fresheners make me gag. It’s been a lifetime since that day, but the memories remain aromatically vivid.

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Architecture I Appreciate

Castles and bridges, cobblestone walkways, and all things made of stone – these are some of the architectural structures that delight me. Even crumbling ruins maintain a certain beauty and fascination. I like rock gardens and rock walls and stone fireplaces. I’d put pebble stone tiles in the shower, but I can’t imagine how I’d keep that clean.

The Mary Queen of Scots Holyrood Bathouse in Edinburgh is a gorgeous little stone structure. I SO wanted to go inside it, but I don’t think that’s allowed and who knows what kind of dank and musty interior it might have anyway. Best to admire it from the street I suppose, and let your imagination conjure up images of the Queen in her milk bath, and all the fuss and bother that must have entailed.

Maybe when I’m old and rich and mostly insane I’ll construct my own stone bath house in the back yard. Infinitely more interesting than your run of the mill bird bath, that’s for sure. I’d cheat and put in modern plumbing though. Maybe add a cabana boy or two. A wet bar. Some towel warmers. A sauna and a massage table. I bet I could have given Queen Mary a few good ideas. Although who really knows exactly what she may have been up to in there.

It’s a charming little bath house, and I’m charmed to say I was there and took more pictures of it than I did of Holyrood House itself, or even Edinburgh Castle. I don’t apologize for my screwed up priorities or strange tastes. Sometimes there’s no accounting for what you like.

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A Favorite Food from a Restaurant in My Hometown

My mother was the best cook I’ve ever known. We grew up on a farm eating home-grown, home cooked meals. What restaurant can compete with that? I don’t think I even realized our hometown had restaurants until I was about 10 years old. Mom once took us into a small diner partway through a shopping day, just to get us all something to drink, and my sister and I were awestruck. We started nudging each other and whispering that it was just like what people did on tv! Then I imagine mom felt sorry for her poor ignorant and deprived offspring and went all out and ordered us something to eat as well. I have no memory now of what we ate, but I know we talked about the experience for days.

When I was in highschool we used to walk downtown to the Lido Cafe, a Chinese restaurant where it took all of our cafeteria lunch money to get one egg roll with plum sauce. But the whole point was to get away from the school, maybe consider skipping a class or two, and see how many cigarettes we could smoke in half an hour. The food was hardly a consideration.

Eating out has always been more about the people I’m with, the ambiance and the atmosphere, the service and the presentation. Plus I like just about anything at all that somebody else prepares, so it’s hard to nail down a favourite.

When I was a teenager, there was a concession stand at the beach though, that made the absolute best french fries I’ve ever eaten. They were made with fresh potatoes, peeled and chopped right there behind the counter. Some one told me they had three different fryers with oil at various temperatures, and every batch had to go through each carefully timed stage. The wait was worth it.

The fries were hot and crisp and salty and the oil and vinegar soaked through the paper cone on our way back across the sand. Before we were even plunked back down on our beach blanket the gulls would be circling, screeching, ready to dive bomb and scoop up whatever was dropped.

But do I really remember how they tasted? Or were they that good because the sun was hot on our sun lotioned skin, the breeze from the lake was warm and fresh, the sand felt soft between our toes? Was it because there were always guys with a football or a frisbee showing off while they waited for us to join their game? And later when we were hot and out of breath, the water would feel amazing?

The company, the atmosphere, and the presentation – that little concession stand on the beach had it all. I’ve had excellent seafood meals in posh places with exemplary service and fabulous wine. But the sun and the sand were missing. There were no screaming seagulls. The fries were tasty, but without that subtle hint of Coppertone, they’re just not the same.

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It’s a Challenge

I have a big mouth and a terrible habit of talking about people when they’re not around, being sarcastic and rude, and pointing out all the things I find infinitely irritating and stupid.

It’s a nasty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

I really and truly try to stop myself from being negative and judgemental. Especially when in the grand scheme of things it makes no difference what I think. Often the person I’m blathering away to couldn’t care less. So why do I do it? It doesn’t make anything better. It often makes a bad situation worse.

Before I start talking I try to imagine if I would ever say such a thing if the person in question could hear me. If the answer is NO, then I know it’s time to shut up.

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Caramelo Caramella

Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew

Cover it with chocolate and a miracle or two…

Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh

Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie…

Who can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream

Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream…

(Candyman lyrics)

I’m pretty sure I could give up both Hallowe’en and Easter candy and still live happily ever after. Not saying I’m averse to the whole idea of candy in general. If Willy Wonka asked me to help out in his chocolate factory I would not turn him down. I just don’t have much of a sweet tooth I guess.

A big rich dessert kind of ruins a good meal for me. You know the kind, where you go from feeling full and satisfied to completely fat and disgusting in five minutes or less.

But it’s no secret that there are a myriad of things you can cover with chocolate and I have yet to meet one of those that I didn’t like. Brookside Dark Chocolate Blueberries and Accai and Pomegranates come to mind. The dark chocolate is GOOD FOR YOU, never mind that the fruit part of it is concentrated and dried and saturated with sugar.

I wonder why we can’t celebrate some holiday or other with salty pretzels and sour cream and onion potato chips. Start giving out trail mix for Hallowe’en and have corn nut hunts at Easter. Surprisingly enough, I have these kinds of brilliant ideas all the time, and they never catch on.

Oh well. Good thing chocolate isn’t holiday specific. That would be a hard one to give up completely.

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Staying Healthy

Mostly what I do to stay healthy is not bother worrying about it. But I ingest mega doses of vitamins, just in case. B for energy, C to ward off colds (and scurvy 🙂 and D for sunshine. Calcium for my bones. Flax for something, I can’t remember what. Not my memory, apparently.

Last spring I was NOT healthy and I don’t want to go through anything like that again this year or ever, if I can help it. I developed allergic rhinitis and asthma-like symptoms and eventually pneumonia. It was not fun.

Spring is a beautiful time of year, but there’s always bad stuff blowing around in the wind. When allergens enter the body they trigger an immune reaction and the production of antibodies in the mast cells of the nose, eyes and lungs. The mast cells release histamines and other chemicals that irritate and inflame membranes and cause scratchy throat, itching, sneezing and watery eyes. I had all that plus a chest cold and difficulty breathing. And a really hard time being nice to people. There are a lot of side effects.

Basically, the body is objecting to the sexual activity of grass and trees. I don’t know how you can put a stop to that. It is also sensitive to spores, which are the reproductive particles or seeds of fungi or moulds. Spores are particularly nasty little buggers because they are smaller than pollen and can get deep into the lungs.

And that brings me (at last) to killer snow mould. (I added the killer part myself, because just saying snow mould on its own doesn’t make it sound nearly fierce enough.)

It’s a fungus that looks like spider webs and forms under melting snow. There is a lot of stuff written about what one should do to it so that it doesn’t kill ones grass. Personally I care very little about the damned grass, being much more concerned about how my lungs are functioning.

It’s been rather hard this spring to avoid exposure to all the snow mould, short of locking myself in a hermetically sealed room. But I have been avoiding going outside too much. I keep my windows closed. I don’t have an air conditioner, but I keep an air purifier going night and day. There is a heppa filter on my vacuum cleaner so that it doesn’t recirculate particles back into the air. I change my sheets and pillowcases frequently. I keep my cortisone nasal spray and my inhaler handy.

So far, fingers crossed, I’m winning the battle, but this has been the weirdest spring for slow melting snow. Our backyard still has mounds of it, receding as slowly as a hairline.

When it is finally gone and the yard has been power raked and aerated, it will be safe for me to open the windows and doors and embrace the season properly. Hopefully this will happen sometime before July.

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The City of Edmonton

To answer this prompt (what my home town is known for) I’m going to borrow the city I live closest to (the capital city of Alberta) because it actually IS known for something. From 1981 to 2004, Edmonton boasted the largest mall in the world, West Edmonton Mall.

When people from out of province come to visit I will go there with them, but otherwise I avoid it, unless it’s to visit the Apple store or Build-a-Bear. It’s big (obviously) and crowded, and a good half hour drive from here. Apparently there are people on the west side of the city who use the mall all winter long as a free indoor walking gym. Going from one end of it to the other on two levels would certainly give you a decent work out.

There’s an old saying here – “If you can’t find it at West Ed, you don’t need it.” Well, it’s local humor, what can I say.

I’ve heard this city described as both beautiful and ugly. I don’t really have an opinion either way, although ‘beautiful city’ to me is an oxymoron. I think the best you can hope for is functional and clean, as far as big cities go.

We’ve also got the Oilers and the Eskimos and used to have ‘Welcome to Edmonton, City of Champions” signs, but since there was not enough room to add in “no longer” or “former” right before the word champions, I think they’ve taken those down.

Of course there’s hundreds of other things here that I’m not mentioning, mostly because I don’t care and suspect that you don’t either. There’s a great long page all about the place on Wikipedia if you are totally dying to know more, but I can’t imagine why you would want to unless you’re planning a trip here. And I can hardly fathom why you would do that either. Ha! Good thing I don’t work for the department of Tourism.

Seriously, it’s a lovely city full of lovely people. Clean and functional. Mostly the people are clean and functional as well. If you ever drive through, be sure to look me up. But don’t make me go to the mall with you. I’ll be totally whiny and ruin your day.

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Patience My Friend

How poor are they that have not patience!

What wound did ever heal but by degrees?

~William Shakespeare, Othello, 1604

Share three things that you have no patience for.

Sharing, thinking up three reasons for things, and sentences that end in a preposition.

How do I behave when I have to deal with these things? I get all snarky and sarcastic and my life is ruined.

(And now for my real answer.)

“I travel in worlds of unseen truths and untapped potentials, going beyond the obvious and visible to embrace those powers which are veiled from normal vision. I am passive by nature and very aware of the infinite potential all humans harbor within them. I am also very patient. I can wait for events to blossom in their own time.”

Sorry I can’t remember exactly where those words originated, but I think they’re from a Tarot card. They struck some chord deep within me and have been on my Facebook profile ever since. Because seriously, where else would you put something that damned profound.

I do have an infinite amount of patience. I am passive aggressive. I can wait you out. I have faith in karma. I believe that anticipation is half the fun.

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Will I Ever Go Back to School?

I’m looking at retirement. With great longing. It could happen in three years or less. Perhaps tomorrow or the end of this month, or this afternoon if the mood suddenly hits me. As soon as my work becomes too tedious to bear (and it’s hanging on the edge some days) I’m done.

So I cannot picture myself ever going back to school, at least not to any kind of formal in-classroom situation with text books and exams and assignment deadlines. Courses and classes for things here and there, doing oddball things that I love to do, with no great expectations – that’s about as serious as I’m likely to get in the education area at this point in my life.

I went back to school when I was 50, more in the pursuit of a bigger pay cheque than for any love of learning. It was difficult but the rewards were good. I feel no strong need or urge to repeat the process. But I’m kind of living proof that it’s never too late to go after the things you want.

Now I just want a homework free life, no research required. Nothing to memorize, nothing to prove.

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