It is humiliating to be a Canadian today.

The Truth and Reconciliation walkers from Cochrane passed through our area last week on their way to Ottawa to participate in the closing  events of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools.  The picture in the local newspaper awakened me to the whole event.

Justice Murray made his report today on the “legacy” of residential schools as part of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

The report in the National Post made me weep.

I have always felt so proud of being a Canadian: of our role in WW1 and WW2;  of our sending peace keeping troops into war- torn parts of the world; of our health care system; of our record of being a clean and safe country.  I have always held my head high and thought we were one of the best nations in the world.

But this report has made me hang my head in shame.

All last week while I was reading Nelson Mandela’s The Long Walk to Freedom, my heart ached for the suffering that the South Africans endured under apartheid. I cheered on  their fight for freedom and justice.  Then I went to my book club and learned that the Africaaners came to Canada to study how we had managed to take the land from the aboriginals. In the light of this report, it makes sense that they would do so.

Why is it that all these years I preferred to believe that we had done the best by the natives and that they just had not “evolved” sufficiently to take advantage of what we, the superior, modern society had to offer?  Why was I so unwilling to learn how sexual abuse of a child can cause him or her to turn to alcohol and drugs and even prostitution?  Why was it that I could see the Africans as suffering individuals but turned a cold heart to our own aboriginals?

Pride.  Ignorance.  Superficiality.

Coincidentally, just yesterday I started re-reading Richard Waganese”s book, Indian Horse.  In it, the speaker is in a rehab clinic and is asked to tell his story as a way to heal.  The first few chapters tell how his sister was taken by the government and they never saw her again.  Then his brother is taken.  Ben runs back to them but dies of tuberculosis.  They come for the speaker, Saul,  just after his eighth birthday.  He watches as three of his colleagues are punished so severely that they die and are placed in unmarked graves.  Because he speaks English and loves to study, he is befriended by a priest who teaches him to skate and gets him into a hockey league where he shines. But he is never at home in his skin.  He turns to drink and drugs.  He can’t keep a relationship alive.  Only at the end of the book when he returns to the school site do we learn that this “wonderful priest friend” sexually abused him for years and he felt too hopeless to stop it or ask for help.  A brutal tale and one that is much more credible given this report.

I feel very strongly that we Canadians must find a way to validate the suffering we imposed in the name of religion and a superior culture.  We must strive to right some of the injustices we have inflicted.  Perhaps we can look at South Africa and see how our reserve system parallels apartheid and make our native people equal members of our society?


Fulfillment in Creating Something Beautiful

While in the USA this winter, I decided that I would try to paint with acrylics.  At home I do mostly watercolour and oil so I felt a little rusty with the acrylics..  Luckily I had bought several board canvas surfaces and they were perfect for squishing into a small box on wheels, along with my watercolours and acrylics.  The condo is quite small and when I paint I need to spread out and leave the mess there for several hours.  If I started after my exercise and breakfast I found that I had to clear everything off the table for lunch, so I migrated out to the screened-in balcony.

There I had to cope with the sun and the temperatures that rose steadily during the day.

Also the canvas board was a new experience and a trying one at that.  I like to be able to judge how the paint will flow…that was not generally possible.  My first attempts were wishy washy.  I felt the paint was not really grabbing the tooth of the canvas.  Also I had wanted to try glazing one colour over another…red over yellow…blue over pink  etc.

Mainly I had hoped to try acrylics on paper.  I have yet to do so.  But here are some photos of what I have painted in the past few months.

Florida walk at sunset

Then I worked on several paintings of places in Algonquin Park in Ontario.  I was interested in the scenes that we might have seen when canoe tripping.  I first put on lighter colours, but pure pigments, not ones mixed with white.  Then I glazed an adjacent or complementary colour over the original one.  The result was quite a glow from the objects painted..

Red Canoe AlgonquinAlgonquin shoreline

I have no idea why these paintings are only showing vertically when they are landscape in their original format…???

You can still see the glow emanating from the rocks and even the canoe and paddles,

This last painting I am not sure is finished.  It is a first run at the subject.Autumn in Algonquin

But I do love the colours in the sky and once again the rocks do glow.

While these are not masterpieces they do speak to my love of colour and of leading the eye into the landscapes that five us the rest that nature can provide.


Florida on a shoe string!

Well it is almost three months in the sunny south…beating the winter blues on the east coast of Florida, near West Palm Beach.  The weather has been in the high seventies to the low nineties or 24 to 33 Celsius.  We are healthy and tanned. AND  we feel very blessed.

Richard’s cousin’s partner found us a one-bedroom condo for $1000 a month…OK OK the exchange on the Canadian dollar made that more like $14-1500 a month.  Yes, but with careful budgeting, we were able to manage that.

We planned on allowing ourselves $30 a day.  $200 a week for groceries, alcohol, pharmaceuticals etc.  $200 for gas.  We hope to be able to golf but found that most places wanted $60-$80 a round.  Luckily we were told about Okeeheelee Park where we bought a frequent player card.  That made  it possible to golf twice a week at $28.75 for the two of us.  Of course that meant we walked nine holes but that was plenty for us.

Rich rigged the van so that the two bikes fit inside upright.  There are wonderful trails at Okeeheelee and others at John Prince Park so we were able to bike on the three days when we were not golfing.  All free of course!

This condo development has two clean pools where we swim every day about three thirty p.m.  And there are organized exercise programs every morning at 8:30 am:  Walking with Leslie Sansone or Gentle Yoga.  So I am feeling more trim and energetic.  I lost much of my muscle tone after the gall bladder surgery so it is great to start to feel strong again.  The pool and the classes cost nothing.  The frequent parties, dances and karaoke might cost us $10 to $20 dollars every two weeks or so.  The laundry costs about $7 a week.  We have not gone to clothing outlets very much as we don’t need much more than we bought. Both times we have shopped for clothes we have gone either to the Dillards outlet, the World Thrift Shop or Bealls.  All cheap places. There are several free beaches and every Thursday there are free concerts in the Clematis park…and in the lovely City Place in West Palm Beach on the weekend.

It has been a great holiday.  We are amazed at how well we have managed to stay on budget.  We have been paying down our debt and yet enjoying a winter escape.


Playing with the “Grans”!

There is always lots of excitement when the grans visit. Sophia must play “Queen of the Castle” from all eleven of the monstrous boulders that line our front lawn. She will choose a rocky path through the woods when asked where we should go for a walk and bounce off every rock she meets. Both she and Evan love to chase one another up one set of stairs from the basement, across the living area and down the other set of stairs to the basement, thus completing the race circuit.

Add to this the thrill of turning on the Christmas tree lights and the satisfaction of “tickling the ivories” and you are beginning to get the picture!

This past weekend, November 29, 2014, saw us making gingerbread men. I always did this with my three when they were young and wanted to continue the tradition with the grans. We always hung the decorated men on the Christmas tree but they never ate many of them because the ginger taste did not appeal to them.

I made the dough ahead of time, cutting down on the ginger and increasing the cinnamon in the recipe.

At first we tried modeling the men: rolling balls for heads and snakes for arms and legs. These resulted in some pretty fat boys! Sophia, our three year old, pushed the cut pieces of cherry into their tummies. Some had buttons from the top of their heads to their crotch!
Soph Ev gingerbread Nov 14 (5)Soph Ev gingerbread Nov 14 (2)

After four of these, she discovered the cookie cutter and the rolling pin. Both she and Evan, our year old, wanted to help roll out the dough and cut out the shape. Soon they both realized that the cherries tasted good and the dough tasted even better. Interest took off in that direction and in the direction of the first baked men. They loved them. Evan ate half a one, followed by a whole one. He would have eaten more if his mom had not stepped in.

Soph Ev gingerbread Nov 14 (6)
Soph Ev gingerbread Nov 14 (1)
I expect that next year some of the excitement around Christmas will be to make the gingerbread men together. Perhaps next year, some of them will make it on to the tree!


Check out your out of country insurance rules VERY CAREFULLY

Nope. No way. RisK? No, no, no. The job of insurance companies is to avoid risk at all costs.

When it comes to travel insurance for retirees, they even hire doctors to find reasons why they should not pay a certain hospital bill.

One of our friends had had to have some polyps in his throat removed. They were benign. While on vacation in the sunny south, he had some lung trouble. The bill was about $10,000 USD. The insurance gave him permission to go to hospital, but when he got home their doctors had reviewed the case and decided that he had a prior condition that meant the insurance company was not liable. They insisted that the polyps were the prior condition. His own GP said they had nothing to do with his lung infection, but the insurance refused to pay his bills.

Recently I called my insurance coverage and they assured me that if I had had no gall bladder problems for three months, I would be covered while we were in the USA. BUT, the representative also revealed that Johnson’s did not make the decision about payment when I was out of the country. HUH?
That’s right. I had to call Mondial or Allianz as they are now called. Johnson’s lets this subsidiary company deal with any claims.

When I talked to Allianz, they said categorically that if I did not get my gall bladder out, having had a trip to emergency, even two years ago, they would not cover anything to do with an attack.

Remembering the above friend’s trouble with collecting insurance money, I felt fear. Who knows what issues one of their doctors would associate with my gall bladder attack? Perhaps if I had a heart attack, they might say my gall bladder issue was the reason they could not cover me.

We all know that an uncovered stay in the hospital in the USA could cost you your home to pay for it.

Three years ago I had to have an emergency appendectomy. I saw the bills: $20,000 for surgery and an overnight stay.

So I am having my gall bladder out.

Though I have not had an attack for two years, I do not have any choice.

More and more I believe that insurance companies are running this world.


Serendipity and Learning to play a new musical instrument

If you sit down and list all the things you love to do, but haven’t done lately or perhaps EVER DONE, you might come up with a list something like this: buy bubble bottles for everyone at a party, learn to speak French conversationally, live in Quebec city for 6 weeks, ride my bicycle a little farther every day, learn some new dance steps, paint a huge canvas, make up a photo album for each of the kids, make calendars for 2015, go on a picnic, shoot hoops, play tennis, set up a baseball game, learn to play the ukulele, improve my strumming, make a memory quilt or memory vest, have a bubble bath with music and candles, gather a group of artists to paint with, gather a group of musicians to play with, experiment with mixed media, produce some abstracts etc.

I wrote such a list several years ago and this year I unexpectedly received a cheque for $200 that had UKUlele written all over it…I went to the Ottawa Folklore Centre on Bank Street and bought a sweet little tenor ukulele.

Why an ukulele, you might well ask. (They are the largest selling musical instrument in Canada apparently). But of course I didn’t know that. It happened that one of my watercolour students suggested that I might find the ukulele easier to learn than the guitar. She had just bought one and had joined a local group that were playing together regularly. That (2013)Christmas break, she brought over her ukulele and invited me to play with it for the next two weeks to see if I might like it.

Then, for Christmas I got this gift of $200.00. My instinct told me that I should go ahead and buy by own uke. Serendipity at work!

Retirement has allowed me to play most days. I took my uke to Florida for nine weeks and stumbled through C, G, G7, and F chords. Rich had encouraged me to buy this sheet music album called The Daily Ukulele by Liz and Jim Beloff, and I was amazed how many pieces I could fake with just these few chords. I played for twenty to thirty minutes every day. By the time we were back in Canada, I was pretty pleased with myself.

Since then I have been trying to learn some strumming techniques. There are great sites on line. Here are a couple of these sites:

Lots of fun ahead for you, should you decide to give it a try. Learning something new is a great way to keep the mind active, too.


Harvesting Raspberries and Blueberries

One of the fun things about being retired is once again having the time to pick fresh fruit. This is a luxury that I seldom experienced while working.

While I missed the strawberry season, we have been able to cash in on both the raspberries and now the blueberries.

In Madoc, Vander Ploeg’s have sold their berry fields. On Pigden Road the fields are now called The Patch. A lovely lady directed us, explaining that they had four different types of raspberries. I started out with the large dark blue ones, but after picking three quarts and tasting one of the berries, I realized that the flavour wasn’t “raspberry” enough for me. I switched over to the red ones which were harder to pick but definitely more to our liking. Everyone picking was quite chatty and sociable. I was amazed to learn that even ninety year olds return every year to pick! The idea of harvestiing appeals to us all, I guess.

Two days ago we went to Bramble Berry Farm, on the Frankford-Stockdale Road to pick Blueberries.
What a crop they have this year! The berries were dark blue and weighed down the branches of these high bush domestics. They hung like grapes. It was so easy to just pull them off and into my basket because the clusters were 99% ripe. I timed myself: I was able to fill a quart basket in five minutes! While I generally do not snack while picking these berries were so deliciously sweet, I found myself shamelessly popping them into my mouth.

Then because this had been my only past-time of the day, I had the energy to come home, sort, clean and freeze enough berries for six eight-cup pies. We sure are going to enjoy those raspberries and blueberry pies in the winter. It will be like a bite of summer.