Monday, August 30, 2010

StoryCorps - The Conversation of a Lifetime

What is it? From their website:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.

Set aside a few moments by yourself to have a listen to Danny and Annie's story.

(Have a tissue ready. I was a mess.)

If you want to hear more stories, follow the link HERE to the StoryCorps website.

Dave Isay wrote a book called Listening is an Act of Love, based on stories from StoryCorps. Here is the book launch (and the address at the end should be

Thanks Debby for the link.

Bunny Jumping Competition

If I hadn't seen it with me own eyes, I wouldn't have believed this was possible. My experience with rabbits was more along the lines of the Monty Python Killer Bunny.

Can you imagine going on a first date with one of the bunny trainers?

"So, you have any hobbies? I'm sorry, say what now?"

Listen to their little bunny toenails clicking on the floor...

thanks to Nathan Bransford for the link

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beverage Alert

I love this quirky knitting blog called The Panopticon.

Today his post made me laugh out loud.

Oh, and Beverage Alert.

It's HERE.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Neil Gaiman's Gives Advice

My creative well is running a bit on the dry side these days. My mind either jumps all over the place or it just shuts down and plays dead (kind of like a hyperactive puppy.) And whenever this happens, I'm tempted to hop on a plane to India (I've always wanted to visit India, my wonky digestive tract notwithstanding) or take up a new hobby like hang gliding (just the fact that they ask "are you man enough?" makes the ornery part of me want to do it) or find work as a waitress in a diner.

Believe me, you think bartenders hear a lot of stories and meet a colourful cast of characters? So does your small town waitress. I've worked in all kinds of restaurants in my life, mostly during my youth. There was the doughnut shop where our local Member of Parliament (a Conservative I feel compelled to point out) took his food and sat down with his wife at a table. He leaned over - this was inside the restaurant, mind - cleared his throat, then casually hawked a loogie on the floor in full view of the rest of the patrons and one horrified waitress i.e., me. On the floor, people. I held up my hand to the lineup of customers while I marched to the storage room at the back and grabbed one of those big, industrial rolling wringer buckets and mops, then dragged it, with much banging and clattering and sloshing of water, out to his table. Without a word and without breaking eye contact, I mopped his snot rocket off the floor. And I vowed never to vote for this man. Or serve him another doughnut, so help me Dunkin'.

I worked in a grocery store bakery where all the inmates of the senior's home next door would show up in pastel track suits and sturdy white sneakers to wait outside the door for the key to turn in the lock looking like the cast of Shaun of the Dead...

...then they'd all shuffle or wheel themselves to tables where they'd stake their claims and nurse a single beverage for hours. The men were dream customers. They'd flirt and wink and order coffee and a doughnut. Easy peasy. The women, oy, the women. They'd order tea, with lemon, the bag on the side, with extra hot water and another cup and hey, give me two bags because I like it strong (then they'd make a second cup for a friend for free) and some toast, but from a fresh loaf, not yesterday's, and don't toast it TOO long, and not too much butter and strawberry jam, not raspberry, too many pips, and.....gah. One woman practically threw her little creamers at me and said she only took her tea with skim milk, thank you very much, as she was watching her weight, then asked if I could please make it snappy and go get her a Boston cream doughnut to go with her tea. The men talked about their days in the war, and when I could, I'd catch snippets of their conversations. There were a few tears but always, always a lot of laughs.

I also worked in an A&W as a carhop for $1.35 an hour. Customers pulled up in cars and trucks (semi's were the worst because I had to scramble up the sides to the window while balancing a tray of heavy glass mugs of root beer.) We wore fetching orange and brown polyester uniforms that acted as mini-saunas, with a beret that made our heads look like giant acorns. At closing time we'd have to clean up the toilets where the drunks would come and go (literally) then sweep the lots with push brooms, wash down all the floors, machines, etc. Highlights were the American customers (a big tip was guaranteed, whereas with the locals, you were lucky to even get one) and when the Argonaut football team was in town for summer training. It consisted of strapping, good-looking, big-tippers who left a string of heartsick/pregnant girls in their wake when they left each Fall. There was one we all fought to serve. Joe Theisman. He always drove up in his Cadillac with the vanity plate "Number 7". He was polite and tipped well, but perhaps we should remember him for this famous quote, "The word 'genius' isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Then there was the golf club snack-bar where I witnessed all kinds of small town shenanigans. My teenage self learned that private golf clubs and adultery go together like gin and tonic. That steam in the locker room? Not strictly due to the showers, is what I'm saying. And when the annual convention of Pipefitters and Sewer Workers asked me to dress up like a Playboy Bunny for an evening, I declined but my friend H. did it. (You know who you are.) And when the annual police officer's party ended up with carts in the pond and off-duty police officers sprawled in the parking lot, I turned a blind eye (but remembered names in case in I got pulled over some day.)

Or maybe what I should do is just sit my ass in a chair and WRITE.

That's what Neil Gaiman says:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Happy 25th Anniversary, Sweetheart

Look at us. Twenty-five years ago we were just a couple of kids.

We flew to Paris that night, and came home from our honeymoon pregnant. Three kids in the first four years followed by umpteen cross-country car trips to P.E.I., and business loans and mortgages, hockey and soccer and Scouts and Girl Guides, cats and dogs and fish and a canary and One Killer Bunny, Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving family dinners, squirrels and skunks, basement renos, three trips to London and two to Paris, three kids through university and a couple of cottages later...

And here we are.

I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

I love you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Window Wars

I love birds. I love birds more than I love clean windows.

On the lake side of our cottage is a two-storey wall of windows which, I admit, afford us a beautiful view of our lake. After many years of living in this cottage, we learned the hard way that when the windows are sparkling clean, the birds bonk into them on an almost daily basis. Our first summer of Avian Carnage included bluejays, grosbeaks, goldfinches, chickadees (no actual deaths as they're like fuzzy ping pong balls) nuthatches, and heartbreakingly, one hummingbird.

I have fought every summer since to leave the windows dirty. The little bits of dust and detritus from the trees were enough to alert the birds that this was not a safe thoroughfare. Hey, I'm not a tidy person by any stretch of the imagination so it was no hardship for me. I could still see out the windows, and the birds benefited, so it was a win-win.

My husband didn't buy it. He's a tidy-pants dentisty type of person and those sorts of people like things clean. But whenever he brought up the subject I'd distract him with a cold beer. This worked for about ten years.

The problem is, he's also a task-oriented kind of guy. It's a weekend wasted if some chore or another isn't completed. He has a mental checklist he carries around in his head and then goes through every Sunday night. (If he spent, say, a weekend lounging on a couch reading novels and eating junk food, his disappointment in himself would be profound. I, on the other hand, think this is a perfectly reasonable way to spend a Saturday.) So on his holiday this summer, he didn't loll, he hauled out the extension ladder and washed all the windows.

Almost immediately, the bird bonking began. Earlier in the day, I'd spent an hour or so watching two young yellow-shafted northern flickers preening and hunting for bugs, figuring out how I might photograph them to the best advantage, then one of them hit a clean window and died at my feet. A few hours later, my first sighting of a Blackburnian Warbler became my last as it too hit the Freshly Washed Panes of Death.

I'd post photos but the birds died before I had the chance to take any photos if you catch my drift.

An "animated discussion" ensued between my husband and I, interrupted by a group of young men who dropped by for a social call (i.e., beer and chips) and soon wished they hadn't. My husband's solution was to hang plastic lids from strings as the boys looked on. They bounced around in the wind and clattered on the glass not unlike birds bonking into windows (the lids, not the boys.)

My temporary solution? I removed the lids and replaced them with strips of tin foil, which now flutter about with the slightest breeze. The reflective nature of the foil coupled with the screechy sounds as the foil scrapes the glass serves its purpose as there have been no bird deaths reported.

However it now appears that the Blair Witch has taken up residence, and the noise is unnerving in the extreme, as it sounds as though she is scraping her long filthy fingernails across the glass trying to get in.

Ideas, anyone? I've heard of these ultraviolet cutouts that can be applied to windows, that are transparent to humans but appear solid to birds. Anyone use these?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I'm not really M.I.A.

I'm here! At the lake. With my feathered friends like this little lady who looks like the love child of a wayward Bluejay and a buzzard, and with a cleavage that would give Mae West a run for her money. (Favourite Mae West quote? "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.")

She looked at lot better a few weeks ago when she had all her head feathers, but then she had three babies who have been hounding her constantly for snacks, and I figure that's what cost her her good looks. The feathers are slowly growing back but geez Louise, she is one homely mama at the moment.

She comes to my deck several times a day. She hops and tilts her head like a coquette and if I don't jump up and throw a peanut right away, she will tap the railing with her beak or hop right up to the window. Failing that, Buddy will let me know she's there. He has a different sound for her (a little woof to say "Mother dear, please go to the peanut jar and toss my friend a treat, will you?") versus a chipmunk (bit more an excited squeal "hey look cool, can I chase that guy behind the planter again?" ) versus a red squirrel (crazy barking, and hurling his body against the patio door in a "DIE DIE DIE!" frenzy. Which I heartily endorse, nay, encourage, for I hate squirrels with the same fervor.)

Anyway, blog posts will continue to be few and far between until I'm back home behind a desk, I'm afraid. That's because when I'm at the cottage, I'm not on my computer. I'm outside, or busy entertaining guests and family members, canoodling with my husband, schmoozing with lake friends, writing, reading all my get-around-to-it books, kayaking, swimming, getting in a bit of photography and doing lots of gardening so it leaves little time for blogging.

Okay, that last one is not entirely true.

Or even partly true.

My "garden" is a result of me once (years ago) opening one of those large cans of wildflower seeds and tossing them with wild abandon like the label instructed. I thought I'd end up with a meadow resembling a French Impressionist painting. Nope. My "garden" looks like Mother Nature scarfed a bag of Skittles, went on a bender, then threw up in my yard.

I'd show you a photo, but the view of the lake is much better. See?

This was the sky last night. I wandered down the many steps through the trees to the dock (okay hobbled, as my back is a bit gimpy right now) to have a peek at the sunset. There was a fat, bright rainbow to the east. This meteorological phenomenon was not caused by the refraction and dispersion of sunlight through raindrops in the atmosphere as some might suppose, but because I didn't bring my camera down there with me.

I ran back up the ramp and stairs to the cottage, grabbed my camera and shot back down to the dock, flipping off the lens cap and adjusting the settings as I ran. (When I upload my photos to my computer, I often see shots like this one.)

Anyway, the rainbow had diminished somewhat, but there was still enough of it left to shoot, so I quickly set up the shot and pressed the shutter only to be met with a blinking "low battery" signal.

Merde tabarnouche maudit* I believe may have been uttered.

Another run, a frantic scramble through the camera bag, back to the dock to catch what was left of the rainbow. More small fat chunk than full arc, but there it is. Bear with me. A few more weeks, and I'll be home again, home again dancing a jig. Or something.

*Quebecois Swear Words. I learned these and some other choice ones when my local firefighter, who went by the improbable name of Monsieur Sainte-Coeur ("Mr. Holy Heart") installed my wood stove insert and dropped it on his foot.