Monday, April 27, 2009

Only Three More Sleeps

Three more sleeps! and then Bryan and I go to see one of the premier guitarist in the world, and right here in Vernon!! and we have almost-front row seats!!! (I'm a little excited).

jesse cook

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Car, She Will be Beautiful

Good news from the automotive front. The president of the bird-brained group beside the newspaper office arrived at said office Thursday afternoon, signed document in hand. Yes indeed! The Eagles will pay to have a professional auto detailer designated by us, the victims, clean the nasty paint off our cars at their expense. That calls for a beer! Debbie called with the good news later that day.

Bryan and I took his 'treasure' to the garage sale and done good. The Seniors' Club takes a 20% commission rather than charge a table fee, and they do all the selling work. We just had to take our 'treasure' there and pick up the unsold items. 'Treasure' is my euphemism for 'junk' (or the other nasty word that I shall not use in public). 'Course we all know the saying about one man's junk and another's treasure; hence 'treasure' and a long-standing in joke about an acquaintance up north, but I digress. (Fay and Roland, think 'Adolph')

Mom Giesbrecht and Terry were here for an overnight visit. She was to see the eye specialist in Vernon regarding her upcoming cataract surgery. Always nice to have them here.

Following their departure this morning, we took the bikes on a short ride to Kelowna. Bryan thought the Ducati demo rides were today but he was somehow misinformed. I'm thinking I still leaning more towards the new Suzuki SVF650 'Gladius', their redesigned SV 650 that is very similar to a Ducati 696 Monster. Bryan calls it a total chick bike. Well, I'm a chick, or at least a ruffled old hen. I think he just wishes he could ride it but the frame is too small for him.

So next weekend the Suzuki dealer in Kamloops has their demo ride day, and are bringing in at least one -(hopefully two) Gladiuses - Gladii? for riders to try. The red/white beauty to the left is what they have at Kamloops. The Duc below is what I threw a leg over today.

Whadda ya think?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Crow Hoodlums and Other Strangness

Crow Boys Gone Bad

I was filling the coffee pot this morning when I heard Bryan calling out to someone outside. Turned around and he's out on the barbeque deck just off the kitchen.

"Who are you talking to?"
"That crow on the fencepost. I was telling him to bugger off."

Evidently the young crow population has gone hoodlum and are terrorizing the little birds in the neighbourhood. With no nest mates to keep them busy (or maybe their girlfriends are sitting eggs) they're loitering around like small town thugs, flipping their beaks at the authorities.

"Where's my slingshot?"
Oh heavens, where's any of his stuff. "Use the air gun."
"In town?"
"Sure, why not? Gerry does." (Gerry is neighbour kitty-corner behind us, semi-retired Armed Forces)

And oh my, he did! Of course, now he can't find any more shot so the troops have retreated until re-armaments arrive.

And all that before 9 am. Never say we live a boring life! The ground is covered with little white-throated sparrows, juncos and California quail, co-existing nicely and all sharing the seed Bryan puts out for them.

That's just the latest in a week or so of weirdness.

Nasty Fraternal Order of Magpies

The Alberta registration is about to expire on my car so it's time to get BC registration. ICBC requires an inspection for vehicles coming from out-of-province, so I booked an appointment last Thursday morning. Ka-ching. The tech told me I need the windshield replaced before he could issue the certificate, which didn't surprise me because it had a large rock crack. So an appointment early Friday morning at Speedy Auto Glass to have that done. KA-CHING. All this so that I can get insurance on the car. Uber KA-Ching.

The glass tech came into the waiting room after they put the new windshield in and said, "By the way, did you know you have spray-over on your car?"

Well, if I knew what spray-over was, I could tell you if I knew that.

"Someone was painting close by your vehicle and it's covered with drift paint. That's what that grunge was on the windshield."


Sure enough, fine black paint all over my beautiful red car. (Colour-blind friend Gerry in V'view tells me it's a lovely shade of grey.) I'm stunned, then confused, then very very angry. Where and when could this have happened?

I thought a bit, then phoned Deb at work. "Go run your hand over your SUV and tell me if it feels rough."

Five minutes later, "Tell me what's all over my truck?!"

"Paint. Tell the others who usually park there to check their cars, too."

Six cars were damaged. The Fraternal Order of Eagles have their hall/lounge next door. Sometime last Wednesday, some of their members were outside spray painting chairs and tables. On a windy day. Without masking or hanging a plastic sheet on the chain link fence between their lot and our company parking lot. One of the salesmen saw them out there and thought that was a stupid thing to do but never thought the repercussions.

So anyway, I phoned the number for the hall and told Murray (whoever he is) what had happened. He didn't deny they were responsible and said someone would be over on Monday.

The person who showed up on Monday was a scruffy, rather disreputable looking man. He rudely asked how many cars needed fixing and by the way, it wasn't gonna cost any stinkin' $750 to do the work (I'd had an estimate done and that was the quote).

"Well, who's going to do it then?"

He had a buddy with a shop over on 27 Ave and the cars would get done when they had time to fit us in.

Excuse me? Who is your "buddy" and who's doing the work and who, exactly, decided this for me and my co-workers?! Colour me not impressed.

He showed up again yesterday afternoon and asked for the keys of the first car.


Yes, indeed. He, John, wanted one of us to just give him the keys to our car and let him take it to a shop we knew nothing about and let him "try to get it off himself."

I don't think so.

Then he got hostile with us. At the front counter of the newspaper office, in front of all our co-workers. "Well, I haven't got a lot of time and he's freeing up time in his shop for me. Whadda ya mean? You don't trust me? Well let me tell you, I do a lot of custom car work and I can do the work just fine ....." and it want on and on.

Pause. And then I calmly said (yes, calmly, because I was trying very hard to control my temper), "Well, I didn't do the damage to my own car or was at fault in any way. We're the victims here and I think we have a say in this."

At which point he got really nasty and yelled, "Fine. Then sue me!" and stomped out.

Total silence in the entire office. And then one of them quietly said, "Well, that didn't go very well, did it?"

I thought Debbie was going to blow a blood vessel. She'd already spoken to her ICBC representative and an auto detailer, got reasonable estimates and sound advice from both. Two of the ladies were out at the time of this confrontation and couldn't believe what we told them. As a group, we sat down to discuss our strategy and then composed a letter to go to the Fraternal Order of Dirty Nasty Magpies (well, that's not what the letter says but that's sorta what I've been calling them) setting out our terms of settlement including a deadline for action.

I, of course, am not at work today so am patiently waiting for updates from Debbie.

Beautification and Bird Sanctuary

Work continues on the yard. Bryan got home last week so I had some help. He was reading through the regional 'Buy & Sell' and found a notice for free junipers in Kamloops. I called the lady and she told me they wanted to build a new driveway in their yard but first a big area of junipers needed to be removed. Just what we wanted for the area alongside the west side of the house.

Early Saturday morning, we headed out in the pickup with spade, fork, hatchet and Japanese saw. The place was way north in Kamloops along Westsyde Road (west side of the North Thompson Ri
ver) almost to McClure. And the junipers were up on a very steep hillside. It was brute work and I was very glad Bryan was with me! I could have done it myself, maybe, but it would have taken a lot longer because the lady and her son were not the hands-on type. A steady hour of hard work yielded a truck box full of beautiful healthy golden junipers and a bucket full of iris.

And when we got home, all the work of digging holes and transplanting them. But oh it looks great! And the little birds love them. A few weeks ago, I also transplanted some baby firs from Kelly's lot next door into spaces between the mature firs on the west of our house, same area we've put the junipers.

Last Thursday and Friday, I worked away on the area above our evaporation field and got it all forked over - the weeds,, rocks and roots removed, bags of horse compost from Elise Riley's place put over in a thick layer. Some of the big flat rocks now make a walking path throughpart of the garden, other paths made with salvage wood slabs. There were some perennials in one corner that I put there last summer. On Saturday, I planted herbs (savory, thyme, Greek oregano, basil, parsley, lemon balm, rosemary, dill, sage, English mint), onion sets, garlic sets, lettuce and carrots. Beans and tomatoes will go in later, when frost threat is definitely past.

Everything else is coming along great. Most of the stuff I planted last year seems to have survived the winter. I put in two blueberry bushes close by the daffodils and hyacinth. The damned deer ate all my tulips - nipped off the flowers and yanked the bulbs right out of the ground! Buddy McGregor, you may think deer are lovely but I'm stating here and now that they are in great danger of becoming next week's barbeque special.

Buddies and Bikes

Got out on my first bike ride of the season Sunday morning - Bryan re-registered and insured them all when he was up north. It was a cool, windy day but we just went on a short jaunt to O'Keefe Ranch and the Spallumcheen Pioneer Power Club open house. That is, barbeque chicken and rice, then tall tales about adventures in antique tractor restoration over endless cups of coffee. Co-worker Debbie and her husband Allan are members; he is also foreman for O'Keefe Ranch.

It was a pleasant few hours but the weather didn't encourage us to ride any more than back to Falkland. Thank goodness for my new heated grips!!

Long-time friend Bryce showed up on Sunday evening, his friend Tim in tow. They'd driven out from Calgary on route to Penticton to look at service bodies (trucks, not escorts). The two guys are both in the water well drilling business and Bryce is in need of some piece of iron (I didn't get into the details).

Bryce and I met at Olds College and have been good friends ever since. We don't see each other that often, or not as often as we like, but his wife Laurie is great at maintaining correspondence. We'd just come out of a rather strenuous weekend, and I was at the tail-end of a head cold that plagued me all week long, so energy levels were low. We had a great visit, although it should have ended two hours and two bottles of wine earlier! The guys all had a wee sleep-in but I was still up and out of the house shortly after 6 am the following day.

Bryan went to Penticton with them. Didn't say if they were successful in their quest but did have a good time. Bryce and Tim drove back to Calgary that night - what time did they roll in, Laurie?

Bryan's been shopping. The little store in beautiful downtown Falkland (pop. now 802) has a big sale on important stuff like canned tomatoes and other staples (will make a great venison stew!!).

And I have a big box of manuscript to wade through. The sun is shining - I'll pull my reading chair over into the sunlight (too windy outside) and get at 'er.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quick Note

I'm not lost in space ... perhaps virtual space ....

Anyway, an update will be coming soon to a screen near you. Just grabbing a minute to let you know it's been a busy weekend in the garden, in between coughing and sneezing sessions with the latest version 2.02 of the regional cold virus (a.k.a. the spring cold everyone has).

Life's been good. Weather's been so-so. Hugs to all!

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Week in a World of Cutbacks

Fridays are generally quiet days for me, or at least that's the theory. Hoever, it's the one business day I can get my errands done, so it often turns into a more hectic day than I want.

Today, of course, is Good Friday and so is very much a quiet contemplative day. Savouring fresh brewed coffee. Listening to gospel music on CBC radio. Enjoying the bright sunshine pouring through the east windows, warming the house and my soul. (Also showing how dirty my windows are, but oh well!) Clouds linger behind Tuktakamin Mtn. to the south and Estakwalan to the west (I have a 270 degree view from the kitchen table thanks to the extensive windows in this house and view above the neighbours' houses), threatening to hide the sun later in the day.

Soup is bubbling on the stove - time today to do things that require time, like making Ching Po Leung soup. A dried vegetable mix from the Asian grocer in Kelowna, it contains lily bulb, pearl barley, lotus seeds, dioscorea, longan, fox nuts and polygonatum (yes, I copied that from the package - sounds interesting, ney?!) and I threw some pork into the pot with it all. I adore pot barley in soup, any soup. Will let you know how this all worked out.

Friday is always 'decompression day', even if it's an errand-laden day. The newspaper is a fast-paced, high-pressure, high-stress environment. Every so often, but less often than you'd expect, someone has a mini-crisis that requires a personal time-out in the washroom for a fit or cry or both, or a brisk walk to Timmy's down the street - more for the walk than for the coffee. No one comments on it because we've all been there and look on in compassion, never censure.

On a scale of 10, this week was a 12:
  • long weekend, meaning double deadlines (Friday and Sunday papers) and all deadlines moved up
  • several staff including me having one day a week cut back, a loss of 8 or 10 hours a week, depending on the employee (x4= 40 less hours a month for me, the equivalent of one entire week, 25% pay cut)
  • two sales people and one graphic designer out on medical leave, everyone else picking up their work which isn't unusual but makes a crazy week go slightly over the top
  • visit from one of the company grand poobahs, on Thursday, calling a meeting with all sales staff half an hour before deadline - WHO DOES THAT?!!
  • and the fallout from that meeting, including news of that one of the graphics designers has been laid off effective 5pm that very day.
So, with the designers already maxed out trying to do all their work in less hours, who will do her work? and when? and how? We're 'encouraged' not to work overtime (automatic double time in BC, not 1.5 time like Alberta). The Overflow basket may indeed overflow.

People at the office and in general are feeling the strain from the economic situation. BC just posted the highest lay-off rate in Canada so I suppose - no, I know - that we are fortunate to still be employed. The total external and internal situation is taking its toll, though.

I looked around me on Thursday and saw raccoon eyes, worry lines, bodies limp with fatigue. On-the-ground management is not exempt - in fact, they are taking the brunt of it, having to follow through with the dictates of VPs and senior management. We are aging before our very eyes.

For most staffers, this long weekend is a time for family and friends: the children's Easter Egg hunt, family dinners, walks along the trails that are newly freed from ice and snow, maybe watching sports on TV (Go, Kevin Martin!!). It's also a time to catch our collective breath, roll back shoulders sore from tension, quietly think through the events of the week without the distractions of telephones and emails and faxes and hubbub - measure the situation, weigh our options and regain the fortitude required to deal with the coming week.

Bryan is still up north, until Tuesday perhaps. I've got some gardening to do - spring bulbs to plant, rocks to rake. There is a box of materials for a book job to sort through - mostly interview notes that George wrote before he died; I need to get a handle on that, figure out what all he did and where he was going with it, figure out what I'm going to do and where I'm going with it. Thank goodness the deadline has been rolled back on that one, and I will (eventually) get paid for the work.

I've been invited for Sunday dinner with friends. That completes the weekend. Holidays like Easter are meant to be spent with family and friends, and my family is dispersed like thistle down this weekend: Bryan up north; Becca and Chad to Edmonton; Marlon, Krista and Abby to Calgary. Safe travels, all my loved ones.

Calm, peace and joy with them, and with you who read this.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Introducing Henry Leopold

Meet young Henry. He is the most recent addition to our family, our 'adopted' grandson. His mother Claudia lived with us for a year when she was sixteen and became a daughter to us. His brother Valentin was born to her and Christian three years ago last month. I'm getting excited to see all of them in September when Bryan and I fly to Berlin.

Becca - show the pictures to your dad. Thanks, babe.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thoughts of Mortality

I’ve been through one of life’s interesting experiences. For the past two days, I’ve been helping Valerie sort through boxes and boxes of stuff in her office in preparation for her move in 10 days’ time. Valerie is George’s widow, the man whose passing I sadly marked last month.

George was a graphic artist, a screenwriter, producer, all ‘round media guru …. And a packrat of mondo proportions. He had first, second and third drafts of projects in archive boxes, to say nothing of endless notes, proof pages and other paraphernalia. I really liked George and Valerie loved him to pieces, but he did leave her with a lot of stuff to deal with.

It’s not enough that she has to downsize the household side of things, moving from a large house to a small apartment. The business side of things takes up the entire basement. None of the computers can be moved/stored/disposed of until her technogeek comes help (I don’t understand her network system). But I could and did help sort through the endless banker boxes of paper, sort through supplies and clean out desk drawers and shelves.

Poor girl thought all the paper had to be shredded for recycling! Oh no, I assured her, only the stuff with personal info that could be misused. Just pull out the paper clips and clamps, anything plastic like covers or binders, magazines, books and newspaper in separate boxes. And then we packed them up the stairs, into Bryan’s pickup and down the mountain to the recycling centre in town. Back up the mountain and repeat. Again. Who needs a ‘StairMaster’ when you’ve got the real deal, eh?

Physical effort aside, there was an entirely different aspect to the process that gave pause for thought. George kept all that stuff because it was important to him. He thought it had value. To him, it did. To us, no. Or more specifically, to me it had no value. I had no emotional interest vested in the contents and so it was easy – more or less – to be a dispassionate arbitrator.

George had a delightful habit of dressing up his fax pages with cartoons, and dozens of the originals were in the boxes. Val and I pulled them out and put them in the ‘keep’ box along with other treasures. Val also has a large collection of George’s logo and trademark work. George designed many corporate logos for local businesses, logos recognized far beyond the valley. There’s a seed of a thought of an idea in my mind based on these dozens of sketches and artwork.

There is a box of stuff for George’s three adult children, who all live in Ontario. Included is a box that Valerie despaired of ever finding – photos of George’s family and childhood in India (his parents were Baptist missionaries). Then there was the total surprise of memorabilia that Val didn’t even know existed – George’s various school reports, art school certificates and other ‘landmark’ documentation. All will go to the children as is proper.

I have another load of art supplies and tools to take to the office Monday - I’m sure there will be people there interested in some or all of it as many of them have art interests and businesses outside of work.

I’ve given Val two very long, full days. I’m afraid I wore her out yesterday but we did get a lot accomplished. A friend from her quilt guild was there today and helped in the office during the morning, packing up her fabric stash in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s hard to see how much has been done because a person keeps seeing everything there is left to do. Progress is noticeable downstairs, though.

I can’t help her tomorrow because I have company coming. Bryan’s youngest brother Walter and wife Susan are up from Minnesota; he had a conference in Calgary and then they drove to Mom’s in Revelstoke for a visit. The gang is coming here for lunch. I need to do some housework before they arrive – haven’t done much in the past two weeks but there’s nothing like company coming to inspire action. Vacuum the floors if nothing else!

Tonight, however, I’m just laying back - watching a few cartoon flicks, big glass of milk on the table beside me, writing and thinking. Thinking about what truly is important in our lives, while we are living and after we are gone. I’ve pondered the topic before. Tonight I’m looking around me - at the books on their shelves, the work in progress on my desk (and floor and shelves, but never mind), thinking about the tote boxes downstairs full of fabric and yarn and fleeces, knitting needles, crochet hooks, weaving shuttles; the collection of ruby glass on the mantle and Grandma McKinnon’s china in the tall antique cabinet filled with other heirloom treasures. Who would I want to rifle through these things? What judgments would they make based on what they found? What would they think valuable and what would they toss without a pause?

By what do we measure our lives? What is important to us and why?

Moving from the farm to the acreage involved a lot of purging, downsizing, priorizing (is that a word? Spell check says not but how else to say ‘deciding what was more important than something else’?). Packing to move here involved even more distribution of goods – to friends, charity stores and, alas, the landfill or burning barrel. You’d think we had it pared down pretty good but should something happen to me or Bryan or both of us, would those left to clear it away be pleased or annoyed with us? Humbling thought.

If nothing else, that’s enough of a reason to roust myself and get the dishes washed. God forbid they find me dead in bed and the sink filled with dirty supper dishes!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

OH NO - Girl Guide Cookies!!

Yes, the office is once again under GGC assault, and it's a no-holds-barred campaign on the part of the office daddy whose family females prevail upon him to flog their goods.

Contrary to most people, I prefer the mint wafers to the sandwich cookies now making the rounds.

I know, I know - it's their primary fundraiser. As a former long-term Cub and Scout leader obligated to sell popcorn for similar reasons, I understand the thing from both sides. I hated selling the stuff, I hate buying it. Still, it's morally superior to working casinos (at least in Alberta) no matter how lucrative that is.

But back to the cookies.

Before Christmas (run of the mint & chocolate wafer variety) I bought several boxes and then self-righteously gave them to neighbours as gives. Then went to said neighbours for tea and ate the cookies I gave them.

If it's charity, both in the buying and the giving, it should be calorie-free, right? Alas, no.

A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. Story of my life.