Friday, 21 October 2016

Where's a Cat When You Need One?

If you've been reading from the beginning of my blog about six months ago, you might remember this post, or this one, about mice that my cats have captured in the house and how they escaped with their lives (the mice, not the cats) (wait, that sounds like the cats died, but honestly, they didn't).

Well, it's that time of year again - autumn - when the nights get crispy cold and the days aren't all that warm either, and all Mother Nature's critters get a little nervous about the coming snow and ice and lack of food. The spiders and the mice seem especially worried, or at least those are the critters that seem to want to get in our house the most. The spiders I'll leave to another time, or maybe never, because my friend Chicken has a thing about spiders, and not in a good way. Although she does write hilariously about them, and it would be worth your while to read that link, if you haven't already.

Let's hope that this mouse story will be the one and only mouse story this fall, although it's early in the season, so optimism may be unwarranted. This happened a couple of weeks ago, but it came to mind again today when one of our cats was being extra inquisitive in the living room, sniffing around under the furniture. Cats are usually our early warning system for small intruders. He kept poking around, so I felt the urge to poke around, too, and while gingerly feeling under the coffee table (the kind that goes almost to the floor on all sides) I found three toy mice (one pink, one blue, one grey) but no real ones, and while I'm glad I didn't find a live mouse, I'm also hoping I didn't miss finding one.

While the mouse I set out to write about never actually got in the house, it sure seemed like it wanted to. My husband and I had just finished supper and were chatting in our den, which has a regular door with a sliding screen door opening onto the deck. We had the door open to air out the house a bit, because I may have burned something while cooking. Eventually I happened to look up, and there was a tiny grey mouse near the top of the screen door, hanging on for dear life and trying - I just know it - to find a hole, any hole, to get inside for some of what we had cooked. Even bad cooking smells good to a critter, apparently.

I wasn't too sure that there wasn't a hole somewhere big enough for it to squeeze through, so after admiring its cuteness for about a second, I hastened to shut the door, got my camera and went out the kitchen door to the deck. My husband told me the mouse jumped down in the meantime, and it was nowhere to be seen by the time I got outside.

Probably just as well. It might have run up one pant leg and down the other, like a mouse did to my father when he was a young man. He worked in a commercial hen house, and there were a lot of rats and mice around because of the hen feed, but still - the nerve of that rodent! Dad still shivered telling the story sixty years later, and from the way I felt just thinking about that mouse maybe being on the deck with me, I'm pretty sure I understand why.

This is not the mouse hanging onto our screen door, not even remotely. When I was searching for "mouse" on Pixabay, there were a terrifying number of snake pictures mixed in with the mouse pictures, so I gave up looking and picked the next mouse picture I saw. Thank you, Pixabay .. I think. Please sort your photos in a more logical way before I need you again. Pretty please?


Monday, 17 October 2016

Looking Up; Autumn Edition

The trees and shrubs are nearly at their peak of autumn glory here. They were just starting to turn colour when we were hit by the remnants of Hurricane Matthew on Thanksgiving Day. I thought the wind and heavy rain would blow away all the leaves, no matter what colour, but surprisingly they did not.

To balance out the winter/spring editions of Looking Up, here , here, and here, it's time to have a gander at glorious autumn:

Orange ...

Red ...

Yellow and still some green ...

What IS this colour, anyway?

And, finally:

Technically, I wasn't looking up to see this; it was at eye level because of the configuration of the walking trail. But it was so pretty, I had to include it. Pinky-red ... Reddish-pink? Brilliant. Eye-catching. Goes well with Grey.

Two more "up" pictures ("way up" might be more accurate):

There is an airport a little further east of us on the planet, and it seemed all their planes were taking off during my walk. At least eight went overhead within a half hour, and there were other, older contrails in the sky as well. The jets were clearly visible at the leading tips of their contrails, although they don't show up in the shot above.

These photos don't translate to a small screen as well as I'd hoped they would. On the Big Screen, a.k.a. "the sky", they were marvellous.

It's been rather quiet in my world over the past week. I have been trying to get out walking, and it has been painful and frustrating. The pain has been worse in my back lately; it's been coming and going, so I suspect a nerve is being pinched, which calls for further investigation, which delights me no end. That might be a tiny bit of sarcasm there. But finding the beauty in nature - and in man's handiwork as well - has been a distraction and a comfort.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Books and More Books

I've been doing some good reading lately.

Which might explain some of the procrastinating that has been taking place on other jobs like housekeeping and Christmas preparation and even crafting.

There was a time when I always had my nose in a book. As a kid, I went to the library faithfully every Saturday when we went to town  to do errands, and always borrowed the limit of four (thick) books, which I finished long before the next week's visit. I remember my excitement when the limit was changed and I staggered out of the building with ten books weighing down my small self.

When I finished my education and was settled in a job in a new town, in short order I found and began to haunt the library there. Still later, after marriage and a family, I took our children to the library, too, and still managed to sneak in some books for myself, despite how little time I had to read.

Around the time that my father had his stroke in 2007, and things got extra busy for me, blogging was becoming popular. I had never found it easy to put down a good book until the last page was turned, so blogs were the perfect length for the short periods of time then available to me. Reading a full length book became a novelty.

As the busy years went by, I started to regard myself as a non-reader. In hindsight I understand that my focus had only shifted, from long stories to short ones, but it bothered me at the time that I no longer identified as an avid reader. I began to notice the extensive reading lists of some bloggers I admired (especially this one - thank you, EC), and tried to stir up my old passion for books.

It was hard at first. I had trouble concentrating on anything longer than a blog post. My brain seemed to have re-wired itself for short reading spurts only. As an aside, having seen this happen in myself, I believe it's probably even more of a problem for those who don't enjoy reading to begin with or aren't old enough to have developed the habit of reading lengthier material. If this could happen to me, a reader through and through, imagine how much easier it could happen to those who haven't developed the habit.

After persevering for a few months, I was able to read for longer and longer stretches of time without becoming restless, and my book-crazy self was reborn. When I began this blog seven months ago, I knew that keeping a list of books I read would be an important component, acting as both incentive and record.

Although we already have a huge number of books, I no longer borrow from the library. (Sorry, Librarian Steve!) The last few times I did, I kept forgetting to return them on time, and the embarrassment (and expense) together with the lack of selection pushed me to find an alternate source for my habit.

A local service group has an annual used-book sale, and although I've attended off and on through the years, it takes considerable time to sift through the chaff and find books I enjoy. This year the sale took place while I was in the midst of my hip/back problems, and because it was painful to walk or stand for extended periods of time, I ended up going for short outings on three different nights, which worked out well, and eventually ended up with forty books for a total of $50. It felt like I had found a buried treasure.  Since then, I have been wallowing in them, with at least two and sometimes more on the go at all times.

I don't know what I'll do for reading material after I've read them all, or just where we're going to put them, but for now I am happy to be a book person once more. I have my eye on a couple of local used book stores, and am trying to get a book exchange going at work (although that would require giving up my book babies, ha ha). We really need to figure out if we can weed our collection some more, but my husband will probably just build more bookshelves instead.

Monday, 10 October 2016

It's the Most Wunnerful Ti-i-i-i-m-e of the Yearrrrr

After writing this post - and too late to write another - I realized the huge irony of poking fun at the stresses in my life on Thanksgiving Day. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I know it. Our holidays tend to be so filled with the work of making a nice day for others that they are less relaxing than I would like. However, I know very well how lucky I am to live in a safe, democratic country, with plenty of food, a comfortable house, universal health care, and freedom from persecution for my beliefs, and I reflect thankfully on those things even in the midst of hurried days.

If you are reading this post on Monday, welcome to our Canadian Thanksgiving Day.

Otherwise known as Wear-Your-Elastic-Waist-Pants Day.

Also known as The-Whole-House-Is-Clean-For-A-Couple-Of-Hours-Until-The-Cats-Are-Allowed-Out-Of-The-Basement-Again Day.

As I said, technically Thanksgiving falls on Monday, but we have our family get-together the day before, to give those who work a chance to recuperate before they head back to their jobs.

It's nice to see our close relatives and share some deliciousness and chitchat.

In many ways, our Thanksgiving is like our Christmas, but without the gifts and the potential for a snowstorm throwing a wrench into travel plans. We eat exactly the same things on both occasions, because there would be a mutiny if we didn't. We clean the house to exactly the same degree on both holidays, because the whole house needs it (with three cats and a twelve-month shedding season, the whole house ALWAYS needs it).

Speaking of Christmas, I have another, more private, name for Thanksgiving.

It's Hear-That-Faint-Noise?-That's-The-Sound-Of-The-Freight-Train-Of-Christmas-In-The-Distance-While-I'm-Standing-On-The-Tracks Day.

In October, that freight train looks innocent enough. Kinda like this:

October is one of my busiest months at work. There is also a family birthday, fall yardwork, Hallowe'en, and craft prep for a November sale. There's still LOADS of time before Christmas arrives, though, right?

By November, that train looks more like this:

Still having fun, because crafts. And craft sale. And Christmas gift browsing. Notice there was no mention of "buying." Whee!! Starting to feel a bit dizzy by the end of the month, though.

And then December hits, and this lurks behind me everywhere I go:

Another family birthday (honestly, who has a baby in DECEMBER for crying out loud? ... er ... we did), and then there's shopping/cleaning/decorating/baking/wrapping/tree/cards/parties. Not enough hours in the day, or night. Decide to send cards for New Year's instead. Make executive decision to skip baking and just buy pies. Throw decorations on tree while vacuuming the cats. Where are the gift cards I bought? "In a safe place." Oh-oh. One year I misplaced all the gift cards and had to go out one hour before stores closed to replace them. Gah. We eventually found and used the originals ourselves, but - gah.

For the 75 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, life here is like a sprint crossed with a marathon combined with leaf-raking and sewing and glue-gunning and pulling out my hair over gift-shopping decisions (culminating in buying gift cards, of course) and mopping and finding the good tablecloth.

So if I happen to go missing, check the basement. It's quiet down there.

Because the cats are all upstairs. Shedding.

We all have our jobs to do, and those cats have never been known to shirk.

That's easy for you to say. You're a red button with white letters. And an attitude.

What's happening with you in the next few months? Feeling stressed or feeling fine?

(Photo and graphics courtesy of Pixabay.)

Friday, 7 October 2016

Goodbye to a Good Man

Two weeks ago, as I mentioned briefly in this post, we finally held the burial/committal service for my dad. He passed away in June of 2015, and his ashes, in a small carved wooden box, had been sitting on a rarely used shelf in my bureau ever since.

Is that a strange place to keep the ashes of a loved one? I wanted them to be safe. I think I also wanted them to be not too visible, because it made the sadness bubble up too much, seeing such a stark reminder of him.

It took awhile to get a time and date set. We needed to consider the winter weather, the summer heat, the busy seasons at work for some of us, and the availability of family, friends, the minister, and so on. And so we arrived at late September.

The afternoon was sunny, but not hot; breezy, but not cool: a comfortable and beautiful fall day. The service was short and uncomplicated, and the minister perfectly captured my dad's decency and kindness, and his loving and optimistic nature. There were not many of us in attendance but every person there had been important to Dad, and he to every one of us.

The cemetery overlooks a river, with grass and trees and quiet all around. My father had decided on this spot prior to his stroke, and he couldn't have chosen a more suitable final resting place. He loved to fish, he loved the outdoors, he loved the small wild places in our beautiful province.

What more could I ask for?

Well, that is a loaded question, isn't it?

How about this, then: Given that my father is gone, and that I cannot unwind time, and would not wish him back to suffer, even though I miss him so ... what more could I ask for in a burial service and in a burial place and in a group of loving people sharing this ritual?

Nothing. It was perfect. And, though many tears fell, there were many smiles and hugs, too, and I feel a little more at peace now.

Taken on the drive to the cemetery. The view is essentially the same as it is from the cemetery itself - the river, the green, the peace and the surrounding rolling hills.