Friday, 19. June 2009
Life at Golden Grain Farm

This is where you'll find me on the web as of spring 2009.

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Sunday, 28. December 2008
Sun 28 Dec 2008

Ducky goes home today, boo hoo

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Friday, 26. December 2008
Boxing Day 2008

"Were you trying to burn the house down last night?" Scott says. "You left the top of the stove wide open when you stoked it up."
It seems strange that, habit that it is to always do the same three things after putting wood in, and in the same order—push in the bottom vent, flip the handle to the left to lock the door, and close the top draft—every once in a while I seem to forget one of them. Or there is a nasty ghost in the house. I remember that last night I added only one piece of wood and was concerned about the end of it being too close to the glass door, and that I rearranged it as best I could. Apparently there was a hell of a chimney fire because Scott informs me there are large flakes of black soot laying on the snow all around the house. Again, we've been lucky. The house could have gone up in smoke.

This was the fourth Christmas since Mom left us. I think of the last Christmas Eve we spent together, when she dolled herself up to "look good for my family." She was weak, pale and tired, but put on some lipstick and was happy we were all in the same place for a change. If not for her condition and our knowledge that it well might be her last Christmas, we probably wouldn't have been. On Christmas Day Scott and I stopped in at Mom and Dad's for supper and she and I chatted for three hours, a real good talk, and the hours flew by.

I don't know why his name had come to mind, but lately I had been wondering where this penpal I had as a kid had gotten to. We wrote faithfully back and forth for some years, then lost touch after high school. When Scott and I got home last weekend he immediately started a fire in the woodstove in the basement and I sat upstairs in the kitchen, where it was warm, reading the local paper. When that was done I started flipping through a farming magazine laying on the table. On one page were two vertical rows of photos of people who work for the Wheat Board, and I glanced at them and was turning to the next page when it struck me that one of their names was familiar. Had I read right? I flipped back. Not only was the name correct, but he was situated in a town very close to the village postmark his letters once bore. I dashed off an email the next day and received one in return and sure enough, it was him and we caught each other up on the last 30 years of our lives.

I had the most overwhelming urge to phone Mom and tell her about this happy occurrence. Next to myself, she would remember him and all the mail that flew back and forth between our two households, like no one else. Sigh.

While Scott's turnips were boiling on the stovetop yesterday afternoon, Grandma opened her gifts and then I offered her a shot of Drambuie. She enjoyed that—rather quickly—but as she had had an upset stomach the other day (resulting in a call from home care to let me know she'd thrown up all over the place, was feeling fine, but I might want to check on her the following day) and is so tiny, I was reluctant to offer her a second one right away. I did request that Scott take the above photo of she and I, since I have many of her with others but am usually holding the camera myself. At 5 o'clock we went next door to his parents' house for the family meal, and at 7 Grandma told me she was tired, so I warmed up the van and drove her back to the lodge. There were fewer residents than usual at the card-table outside her room, where there is always a game of whist going on in the evening and Grandma likes to sit and watch, and sometimes plays. After hiding her coat and putting her gifts away she started walking me to the door and we were met by a young lady (only in her eighties) who lives directly across the hall. She greeted Grandma with a big hug, linked her arm through Grandma's, told me what a goodhearted lady Grandma is and how well she is doing, and the two of them carried on together. It's good to see that Grandma is happy there.

I have been taking it easy today, my only nod to the Boxing Day holiday being Bailey's in my coffee. Scott thought maybe we should drive to Yorkton and hit a furniture sale but I talked him out of it and he was only too glad to let me have my way. We need a bedroom suite for ourselves and new beds for the boys, but can wait till we are going to the city on other business rather than making the trip just to shop.

His son Gunnar arrived yesterday and would have come with us, but I'm sure he's just as glad not to be on the road today too. He'll go back to Calgary in just a couple days.

Well, it's time to put the sweater on Ducky (feels ridiculously like dressing a baby) and take him out for a short walk. It's warmed up a bit but he still starts shivering before I even open the door. He's quite the little sweetheart and has become my shadow— I go nowhere alone— and when he's curled up beside me he growls a gentle warning when Scott approaches. It's not that he doesn't like Scott—he seems to— but nevertheless.

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Wednesday, 24. December 2008
Christmas Spirit

the extent of Christmas junk at our house

A family member of one of our soldiers killed in Afghanistan has made a substantial personal investment to create and market a calendar commemorating Canadians who have died over there. The calendars can be seen and ordered by going to this website. I am not personally acquainted with anyone serving in the Canadian Armed Forces right now, but there is a young lad whose dad comes from Margo and whose mom works at the Co-op hardware store in Wadena. I often ask about him when I go in there, and she tells me she doesn't worry about him, or tries not to; that he was looking forward to going to Afghanistan. If she manages not to lie awake nights, I'm glad. I hold my breath, dread hearing his name when that of another dead soldier is announced over the radio, but I don't say that to her.

The other day our local CBC radio station aired an interview with a woman who is leaving Saskatoon because she can't afford a place to live there. She has an infant and a teenager and has been having such a rough time for so long that she feels she has no choice but to farm her oldest son out to relatives and take her baby with her to Vernon, where her parents and brother live, so that at least when she is desperate for food or shelter someone may help her, because she's been shit out of luck when it came to accessing services in Saskatoon. She said that just behind the swanky new Husky station north of the city, on the Yellowhead highway, there is a tent city and that families are living there. In this cold! With children? That's terrible, and I wanted to do something. But what? I wrote the radio station and asked them to follow up with actions that concerned listeners could take, and apparently they did, though I missed the show the next day. However I received an email detailing several options, one of which is to make a donation to the SOS Overnight Shelter Group. That's what I'm going to do. Its mailing address is 131 Wall St., Saskatoon, SK S7K 2C2. If you're sitting in a warm, cosy house and have presents under your tree, your bills paid, and money in the bank, please consider sending a cheque to help these people out. Even $10 will make a difference; it adds up.

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Tues 23 Dec 2008

It was 30 below and never really got toasty in the van, but Emil and Everett didn't care. They were on their way to their dad's, where "the livin' is easy," and it sounds as if, should they have their druthers, they'd never come back. Hm. What am I doing wrong? Oh yeah. Making them do supper dishes, not driving Emil all over the countryside to visit people at his whim, and not letting Everett play videogames to his heart's content. I am the meanest mother of them all!

We passed this scene of bulldozed trees on our way to North Battleford to meet Gord. It is always sad to see another small forest cleared to make room for more fields. I doubt as a society we really need more space for agriculture, but individual farmers are notorious for thinking of their croppable land gain rather than the effects of decimating the tree population, which the planet is already experiencing. In this day and age surely they all know better, but they are thinking of the dollar, and considering the difficulty making a living by farming these days, it's understandable. Still, it's a pity.

In North Battleford we took the boys to a restaurant and fed them a hot meal before Gord loaded them up in his vehicle and they headed west. We retraced the miles back to Saskatoon and found Cathy out shovelling her driveway. Scott hopped out and took the shovel out of her hands to finish the job, as any self-respecting farm boy will, and Cathy went and grabbed a broom to sweep off the steps instead.

Scott and I looked at each other across the supper table last night and agreed that neither of us, even now, can figure out how we avoided being in a serious smash-up in Saskatoon on Sunday. We're still shaking our heads, trying to understand it.

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Monday, 22. December 2008
Monday 22 Dec 2008

Me 'n' my buddy, Ducky

I am dogsitting for Karen for about a week. Neither Scott nor I like having pets in our house, both preferring to enjoy them outside or in other people's houses, where we aren't the ones who have to clean up after them. But I have a soft spot for Ducky, who is sticking close; I have always said that if the day comes when he needs a new home, I'll take him.

At the moment he is on my lap here and as I type his head is often resting on my arm. This may not go on all week but for now I am making sure he feels loved and wanted, in hopes that it helps him behave to the best of his ability. It's pretty hard for a house dog to have to go outside in this weather to do his business, and tougher yet if he's not feeling confident where he is, right?

So the boys are at Gord's, Scott and I finally bought the flooring for Golden Grain Farm, and happily we escaped what was very nearly a bad multi-vehicle collision on the Circle Drive Bridge before leaving the city yesterday afternoon. We had just loaded some 800 pounds of laminate into the van and had come around a curve on the highway when a vehicle in front of us swerved to avoid a stalled vehicle in its lane. Vehicles started braking and skidding everywhere, as the road was icy, and for a moment I could not see how we weren't going to get banged up. There was nowhere to go and with the road conditions, no one had perfect control of their vehicles. Somehow Scott managed to handle ours and get through the only hole in the onslaught of heavy Christmas-shopping traffic that was ahead of us as well as on all sides and coming up swiftly behind. I still don't know how we got safely through that situation, but let me tell you, I am very grateful. I was reminded how quickly everything can change in a person's life and again, how lucky I am.

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Friday, 19. December 2008
All She Can Talk About Is Her Kids

The phone rang yesterday afternoon while the boys were at school. It was Emil.
"Mom! I talked to Ms Bindig and she said she's going to take me out for supper tonight!"
"Good news," I said. "You'll enjoy that."
"But-but-but—" he stutters when he's excited— "is that all right with you? I thought you said we have to do baking tonight." He was supposed to bring a dessert for their Christmas dinner at the school today, and I meant to include him in its preparation.
"Don't worry about that," I said. "We'll do it after you get home."
"Okay. I have to phone Ms Bindig now and tell her. See you later!" And he was gone.

When the bus dropped him off he had only one thing to do: get ready. Would he bath? No, he'd do that after he got home. I found a Christmas card for him to give Sheila, and put together some small gift items to accompany it, then slipped a 20-dollar bill into his pocket and told him to go shave. He did a stellar job — his face looks so good when it's cleanshaven, which isn't often because he usually does a crappy job with his electric razor— and was in the porch with his braces and boots/shoes on when she arrived to pick him up at 5:30.

Sheila, who used to be Emil's aide at school, dropping him off after their supper out

Everett: "You know what some kids at school told me? They sneak into their parents' closets and find their own Christmas presents."
Me: "That's not so unusual, I don't think."
Everett: "But these aren't little kids, they're practically grownups!"

He has high expectations of kids his own age.

We meet their dad on the highway halfway between here and Edmonton tomorrow, and they won't be home till school starts in early January. Everett's looking forward to getting to his dad's and "away from you," he keeps telling me. I'm "annoying," apparently. I "sing all the time, if you can call it that."
Emil, hearing this, will chime in: "I like being with you, though, Mom. I like being with you." Bless his heart.

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Thursday, 18. December 2008
Books and So Forth

Thursday 18 Dec 2008
11:25 a.m.

Everett, making notes about the life of that little shit Hitler, said he is sure he will have homework over the school holiday. I said "What kind of teacher would be that rotten?" He says they all would. I don't believe it.

He says, "I think I know why Hitler acted the way he did."
Why, I ask.
"Because he felt like a nobody."

The local library closes down today, till the new year. Yesterday I stocked up on books, set on the corner of the kitchen table there. Could hardly wait to get into bed and read last night.

Am into two right now: one about the underground railroad to Canada in the late 19th century, called I've Got a Home in Glory Land, and the other a fiction that is depressing the hell out of me; I don't care if the author is venerated and has won at least one Governor General's Award ... I am having to force myself to keep on reading this thing, which is supposed to be "an exploration of how humanity faces inhumanity, how lies and disappointments cannot and will never destroy truth and human greatness." I'm pushing ahead but am starting to skim. It's called Mercy Among the Children. I want to get it over with, and may just set it aside.

Of those that came home with me yesterday, one is written by Monia Mazigh, the wife of Maher Arar. He's the Syrian-born Canadian man who, while travelling back to Canada through the U.S. shortly after 9/11, was deported by U.S. authorities back to Syria as a suspected terrorist, and there imprisoned for two years and tortured. He was never convicted of anything but went through hell, and he is not the only one. I'm thinking of Mr Arar as a personal hero, because in spite of the nightmare he experienced and the fact that he is now in a position, financially at least, to retire from some of the ugliness of this life and the people in it and the institutions they profess to serve, he is continuing to fight because there are other people this injustice is happening to. Many of us would just be trying to forget it, as if that would be possible. He is using it to make a difference in the world, in spite of the cost to himself.

It appears that Grandma does have a bladder infection after all.
I stopped at the lodge yesterday to drop off some supplies (high-efficiency laundry soap, light bulbs, q-tips, shampoo and conditioner, etc) but she was down in the dining room in the middle of her supper so I left the bag with the home-care worker and came home.

While the boys were getting their haircuts in town, I walked to the drug store to do some Christmas shopping. In the lineup for the cashier I stood next to a tall, dark-haired man who was wearing only a heavy sweater over a fleecy. I touched his arm and said, "Are you sure you're warm enough in just this?"
He said yes, as a matter of fact this 20- and 30-below weather feels balmy to him, except for when the wind comes up, compared to where he lives. Where's that? I asked. The Yukon. How cold is it up there? 60 below. Oh! Well then enjoy your tropical vacation here in Saskatchewan, I told him. Just cut holes in a garbage bag for your head and arms, I joked, and wear that over your sweater to cut the wind.

Emil called down the stairs this morning before catching the schoolbus:
"Bye Mom! You have a good day, okay? Are you going to miss me when I'm gone all day?"
I called back, chipper:
"Bye Emil! You have a good day too! Keep yourself warm. I won't miss you, but I'll be glad to see you come home."

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Wednesday, 17. December 2008
Only 20 Below today: Balmy

A visit to the doctor's office was followed by a walk across the parking lot to the hospital and a wait in a small lounge while Grandma had her lab work done. Someone has taken the trouble to make paper snowflakes and hang them from the ceiling. I wondered who, and why.

After an afternoon of running around in town, I came home tired and cranky. I've managed to get us all fed but that's all I have energy for. I'm going to get into my pyjamas, climb into bed, and read for a while.

I'll leave you with this. This morning I ran across a blog that is new to me and enjoyed the writer's answers to the questions that had been posed to her. I've never participated in one of these "memes" before but it seemed to me this gal might come up with some questions worth thinking about, so I agreed to do it.

1. What is your biggest fear?
Drowning. If I went on a fancy cruise ship, I'd have to wear a life jacket the whole time. Even then I might be nervous.

2. Some people think that throughout our lives, we have certain golden moments - times when we are in perfect sync with ourselves and our circumstances. What have yours been and how have they affected you?
Ooh, that's a tough one. I'd have to say my childhood, when I rode my bike all summer with a buddy boy and ran around outside all day, playing in the streets of the small village that is my home town. What could be better than that? I had the freedom to spend my time pretty much exactly as I wanted to ... very much like my life right now, except for these damn dishes. I think those days gave me a taste for daily freedom, so that I was never happy tied into the 9 to 5, especially if I was stuck indoors.

3. It's time to throw a dinner party for your favorite historical figures. Who is at the table? What do you feed them?
I'm not a very good food host, so it's hard to think of something special. I'd make what I like: a big Greek salad loaded with olives and feta; lots of steamed veggies, herbed; garlic toast; all served with copious amounts of wine; followed by a killer chocolate caramel cheesecake for dessert, and coffee. Oh, and my guests? I don't really have favourite historical figures, but I'd love to break bread with Anaïs Nin (obviously) and wouldn't mind meeting Elizabeth I of England either. I've always found her rather fascinating.

4. If someone offered you a chance to have total clairvoyance for a 24-hour period, would you want it? Why or why not?
You betcha. I'd want to see for myself if there really is life after death. To know that there is, rather than only believing that there is.

5. What is the worst thing parents can do to their children (outside of obvious things like abuse)?
Believe that their children aren't good enough. That they have to be better, or somehow more or different, than they are.

And now I'm toddling off to my cosy bed.
Feel free to reply to the above questions yourself: I'd be interested in your answers.

  • Kathy

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Monday, 15. December 2008
Daytime Temperature -25C

The photo above Grandma's bed is Mom on the left and my aunt Reta

Sunday 14 Dec 2008
6:06 pm
Woke up this morning with swollen lips, after having a slightly itchy arm last night. Was applying lip balm frequently yesterday afternoon and last night because otherwise my lips felt uncomfortably dry. I wonder if some of these tubes of balm, which I’ve had for a couple years, could possibly be contaminated or if I might have developed an allergy to something in them? They are all natural and herbal concoctions, but so what. These too could have a best-before date even if nothing is marked on the tube.
Anyway I applied Carmex from its tiny tin this morning – it is the only balm that actually gives relief when my lips have twice recently gotten dry like this— and the swelling had gone down by noon.
What in sam hill is UP? My body is baffling me lately.
Scott and Everett are watching a movie I’ve seen before, an action flick called Sahara. I heated up some jalapeno poppers, thawed a frozen ring of shrimp, tore open a bag of tiny toast-crackers and cracked a jar of cocktail sauce, and that was supper for three of us, while Everett ate leftover pasta and wieners. Not very satisfying all around, I daresay. Scott had brought meat out of the freezer but didn’t go further than that, so I guess he didn’t feel like standing at the counter any more than I.
Very cold today. Grandma has been found several more times since Scott met her dressed and ready to go out Saturday afternoon – last night and again this morning when the aides first arrived at the lodge – with her coat on, talking about going “home.” I discussed it with the aide who was there today and we decided to keep her coat put away so that she has to ask for it when she wants to go out.
She denied that she had been prepared to go out several times, and got a bit miffed when I said numerous people have seen and stopped her. So I just sneaked the coat out without her seeing. Talking to her about it just pissed her off, because she doesn’t remember doing these things. The concern is that she might go out without her coat and thus be worse off. We assume she won’t. We don’t know what else to do.
The lodge houses relatively independent seniors, and staff don’t monitor the comings and goings of the residents; meals are prepared in the kitchen and served in the dining room, recreational activities are planned, and home care aides will dole out prescribed medications, clean rooms, and do laundry, for a fee. Aside from these supports, the residents have to be able to look after themselves. If this confusion continues, Grandma will need supervised care, which will mean a move to another facility.
Reta thinks a bladder infection could be causing her confusion and restlessness. That sounds weird, but Reta’s a nurse and has worked with the elderly for years; she has seen it before. I’ll take Grandma to the doctor this week and ask him to test for it. He’ll probably raise his eyebrow and talk to me like I’m an idiot. I’ll have to be stubborn. Oh that’s impossible, I can hear all of you who know me saying. Heh.
This afternoon Everett hauled flax bales over from the garden area next door and stacked them around Casper’s dog house. Even with her thick polar-bear fur, she’s been shivering in this extremely cold weather, but won’t stay in the barn with the other animals, where apparently it’s warmer because part of the building is insulated.
I read the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in the lounge outside Grandma’s room while Emil and Everett ate a Christmas dinner with her in the dining room along with the other residents and their guests. Everett reports that Emil ate three loaded platesful from the buffet; His Fussyness himself ate only potatoes and buns. A lady came to where I was sitting comfortably and told me there was plenty of food and invited me to go dish up, but I had no desire to join the throng. I can be such a hermit. Afterwards Emil paced the hallways, while I read all the entries from Grandma’s autograph book aloud to her and Everett. Most of them were written in the early 1930s, some earlier. The book’s binding no longer holds so it is kept in an envelope.

Monday a.m.
The schoolbus didn't come out this morning because it's too cold for safe travel, so I have my two boys home with me. Emil is lying on top of his bed, "resting" he says, and Everett is studying for his Grade 10 science exam, one of the correspondence courses he should have completed last year. He came downstairs as I was putting my bedsheets into the washing machine and told me that he knows he's more mature this year because something he couldn't grasp several months ago in the science curriculum is now perfectly clear.

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