Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Looking for more Candles

How synchronous that in the week in which I am to celebrate my 69th I get prompted to write about Old Age.

I am not sure if 69 is old or not. I mean when I hear something on the news about something or other befalling a 66 year old, in my head I think "That's old." Then I realize that I am that age and older. On the other hand, many people are living and thriving into their 80s or beyond, so against that standard, I'm not yet old.

As I sit here and type this, I don't really feel any different than I ever did. In a very real sense, we don't age inside our heads. Whether I am 18, 25, 32 or 40 in my head, I can't say for sure. But I can say that looking in the mirror can be shocking. And last weekend I had to try twice to get out of a low chair at the cottage and thought to myself, "I didn't think I would feel this old this young."

So there is a bit of an age discrepancy with me anyway, depending on the moment and whether I am being called upon physically or not. I have things going wrong with me in terms of my skeletal framework: knees, shoulders, and that blasted foot, for example. On the other hand, I have had no reports, yet, of things going wrong inside. My blood pressure has always been good, and no one gets too concerned over my triglycerides and such after my annual bloodletting.

Aging is a highly variable thing. My three brothers-in-law have all been fitter than me, at least after my lumbar problems that occurred 22 years past and which limited my physical activities ever since then. But they have all had more significant health problems than I — so far anyway.

Larry, at 4 years older than I, was taken a few years ago at the age of 72 by a genetic blood disorder which caught up with him in older age, Bill, who is my age, is presently being treated for an aggressive brain tumour. Brian, six years younger and extremely fit, has already had a valve replacement. If not for that, I suppose he would have reached his expiry day by now. Instead, due to the miracle of modern science, he is able to run for miles and take on various projects. Meanwhile I, the least fit of the brotherly group, limp (literally) along in life.

The limping comes from a very bad ankle sprain which occurred 30 years ago but then behaved well enough  for the next 20 years. About 10 years ago, however, I started to have problems with that foot, and we discovered that I was missing some cartilage and also had bone chips. They could fuse the joint in question, but I wouldn't then be able to bear weight on that foot for six months. Since I can't imagine hopping around on the one other leg with its wonky knee for much time at all, I decided not to take the surgeon up on his kind offer, especially since it would be difficult to predict whether I would be much better for it.

So, I hobble about, not really as badly or as noticeably as I am making it sound right now, and do my best to take regular walks. But mainly I'm not optimally active, and I also eat too many potato chips, and, consequently, I am anything but fit. It's now time to lose the same 25 lbs that I have lost before. At least, I am not putting on 25 pounds on top of previous, multiple 25 lb gains, so I can take some comfort in that.

The craziest thing, or at least a crazy thing, is looking in the mirror and wondering who is looking back at me. Without being too proud or overstating things, I was not the worst looking fellow on the planet. Now, I see a very bald, somewhat scarred face with drooping eyelids staring back at me through dark circles. I know it's me well enough by now, but it still makes me want to put a paper bag over my head.

I wrote (a little) not too long ago about losing my nouns and fumbling for words. Especially with an introvert's brain where information can be harder to retrieve (or so I think based on things that I have read), I do tend to draw a blank when searching for some words, especially names. Thankfully, they usually if not always come to me within a few seconds, which is something that I find reassuring. Still, it makes me feel like a senile old fool when I stumble audibly during a conversation.

So these have been a few pithy ruminations of old age from the point of one 69 year-old. I expect that everyone has a somewhat different story, and I am still not sure if I am truly old yet.

I do know this, however, I have never been as old as I am right now.

And in the light of all this, please excuse me for being presumptuous and wishing myself a ...

Now I must hunt for 54 more candles.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Lucking Out on Extended Warranties

In this one respect at least, Sue and I have had a lucky year.

Last summer, our air conditioner broke down on a very hot day. The service people came that night; it turned out to be the compressor. It was replaced at no charge, including what would have been a horrendous off-hours service charge. Why? Because we had purchased the extended warranty almost ten years previously. The compressor broke down just in time for us to reap the benefit of that purchase and should be good for another ten years.

This summer the AC system also broke down on a similarly hot day, and the problem was found to be in the furnace with the fan not turning. It turned out that the $1000 computer control board for the furnace had given up the ghost due to a power outage just the day before. This was a problem with this model; usually the board would short-out within a year or so, but ours lasted for many years, fortunately frying before the extended warranty was up rather than a year later because it was bound to happen. The extended warranty more than paid for itself. (Note: we now have the new and improved 3rd generation model of that control board, which is not so susceptible to breakdowns from power outages.)

A few weeks later, the emissions warning light in the car came on. I would tighten the gas cap, and it would go off ... for a while anyway. Then, I bought a new gas cap, which didn't help. So, we took it into the dealer who discovered that it was the catalytic converter that had run afoul. The assessment alone would have cost $120, the part $1200, and who knows about the extra hardware required as well as the labour to replace the part. We beat the extended warranty deadline by 4 months. Phew! Once again, the cost of the warranty more than paid for itself.

For minor items or even modestly major items such as my newish camera or lens and such, I usually don't bother. Based on my experience with cameras, I take my chance on it lasting for at least three years rather than forking out $300 for a 3 year warranty, but it has worked out in these three big ticket instances. In these cases, it turned out to be a good thing that we worked the extra cost of the extended warranty into the purchase price rather than having to find the emergency funds, particularly twice this summer, when other expenses are ripping our wallet apart.

But let us hope that we can catch a break from these breakdowns as I am getting nervous.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Most Memorable Holiday

We had never been across Canada, but in 2000 with our daughter living in Calgary, we headed out on quite a road trip. Canada is a vast country; we started around the middle and only went as far as Alberta, leaving out BC. And of course there lay Quebec and the Maritimes on the other side — to be visited in the next summer.

We weren't in a rush and with one extra day for car troubles, it took us 8 days to get to Calgary. (We later got home in 3 days across the northern States, but we were moving pretty constantly.) We camped half of the time, spent two nights in a motel in Winnipeg, one night at a B&B in Saskatchewan, and one in a motel in Medicine Hat waiting for our car to be repaired.

It was great. With our little Corolla packed to the hilt, we felt like adventurers.

Our province, Ontario is the second largest in Canada and stretches a long way from east to west. It took us three days before we hit the Prairies. Travelling north of Lake Superior along the Canadian Shield was quite wonderful.

Then, there was the big sky of the supposedly boring Prairies, which were not boring to me. We detoured down to the Cypress Hills in southwestern Saskatchewan where I took a photo of this Coulee (old stream bed).

Once landed in Calgary, Allyson took us to the badlands. This was one of the hoodoos, left standing tall after surrounding rock had been eroded away.

As nice as the badlands were, the next day we headed to the Rockies. The majesty overwhelmed me.

After that, we headed back to the mountains every chance we got over the next few weeks. Of course, we visited beautiful Lake Louise.

One day we drove the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefields. What a drive! We stopped for a view of Peyto Lake.

Back and forth we went but eventually ended up in Jasper National Park where I met up with a boyhood chum. We took the trolley to the top and looked down on the world.

I loved the Rockies; they had a tremendous impact on me. Each and every night for a whole month after our return, I dreamt of the mountains. No other place, mountains or otherwise has left me feeling like that.

After that trip, I actually made a web page going into the trip almost day-by-day in detail using the journal that I kept along the way and many many photos; it was still the days of film, and memory informs me that I took 36 rolls. It seemed like a lot at the time but not so very much from the perspective of the digital age.

As I said above, the trip home was a quick 3 days of constant travel and not a memorable part of the trip. In thirty days, we put more than 12000km/7500miles on the car, but then it was time to get back into a normal existence.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Critters and Fences

OK then. I'll play again because I just noticed that before I went away I made a little fence folder. I had forgotten but since it's there ...

These are critters seen on our Riverwalk Trail. I should have kept last weeks squirrel for this week. Oh heck, why not post it again?

Click the pic below for more links if you are so inclined. At least that's how I think it works.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back With a Few Photos

Here's a quick hit from the weekend. It was a family reunion with lots of people in a small area. I may post some of that later, but here are a few shots from when I managed to get off by myself for a few minutes.

I edited these on my iPad, which is all that I can do there, but I don't post usually due to lack of internet access. We just have a cellular card in Sue's iPad to check messages, but the plan doesn't have room for uploading photos — at least not without becoming expensive quickly.

It finally cooled down overnight on Sunday, so there was a wonderful mist over the water early Monday when the sun hit it.
Some day, this tree will fall, but it is probably safe for awhile.
From the yard near the cottage.
Goldenrod in front of the Planer Mill
In the old barn, looking out.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

I Leave You with Fences

I see that it is Good Fences day on Blogger. While I don't post to this meme, it did give me the idea for a blog. I have been a pretty busy blogger (for me) lately, but since it appears that it will be at least a half week since I can post again, I thought I would leave something in my wake, starting with this ↓ cute fellow. Usually, squirrels are too busy running from this scary guy, but this one stopped for a spell before scampering.

This ↓ was from our walking tour last month. There is another one tonight, and we would go, but we're busy getting ready for weekend travel.

In the first photo below, I composited Danica into another photo. I was just playing around in Photoshop. The second photo is the original sans Danica. Obviously, I played with the white balance in an attempt to match the two parts of the composite.

So then, to give equal time to the grands, I composited JJ into a photo with a fence and with Danica.

I feel a little sheepish about posting this, but there is a fence.

Oh, I have more that I got ready for this post, but, somehow, this seems like enough ... for now.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

First World Problems

Identifying something as a First World Problem has become a way of saying that that something is not really too much of a problem in the big picture: more like a minor hindrance or irritant in a pretty fortunate life.

I have been thinking lately, well before being prompted to blog about first world problems. that I have, indeed, been pretty darn lucky. Unlike millions of folk, both past and present, I have always been comfortable: always had a roof over my head and heat in winter. For much of my adult life, I have even enjoyed artificial coolness in summer which has been pretty doggone important in the past week as our temperatures soared to a feels like reading of over 105F. There were three days when I pretty much hibernated indoors.

And as my tightening beltline will attest, I have always had enough to eat. The food has always been there. Unlike millions or even billions, I've never had to scrounge for scraps.

Healthcare has also been good. As a senior in Ontario, I don't pay much more than $100 per year for my prescriptions. To put that into perspective, meds were costing my ~$300/mo before I officially reached the golden years. That leaves me enough money to fund dental care, orthotics and hearing aids without too much financial strain. As someone who must fork out almost $3000 for hearing aids this year, I am really appreciative of the help that I get with prescription meds that leaves me the funds for these devices. Even then, the hearing aids were partly subsidized, for without state assistance, my cost would be closer to $4500. Phew!

Of course, life has been good in other ways that would be easy to take for granted. I am referring, of course, to family: both the family that I grew up in and that which I accumulated on the way. Perhaps, although I do my utmost to disguise the fact (hahaha), you have noticed how much I dote on my grandkids.

Let's add universal education to the goodies that have enhanced my life, for even now education is not free and easy in many less developed countries. Also, my university years were subsidized by a combination of student loans and grants.

Such are the benefits that accrue from the happy accident of being born in a first world country.

This all leads me to a first world phenomenon that I have some minor reservations about — the bucket list. There are those who have grand bucket lists of things that they intend to do in this life. Goals and wish lists are fine really, and I have no great issue with listing things you would like to accomplish, which often becomes holidays to take and places to see. I do hope, however, the bucket folk are appreciative of the truly important things in life like some that I have mentioned above.

I don't have a bucket list. I can't afford to have a bucket list. If I were to have a first world problem I guess this would be it, which is to say that I don't have much of a problem. Of course, I appreciate things which happen to accrue to me beyond the basics, but I would never sit down and make a bucket list of wishes as if not being able to cross them off my list would somehow be a grave failure or disappointment. I do understand that there is no particular fault in having a checklist of some sort, but to me the stuff of life is more like having love, comfort and sufficiency. If you have that as I do, you're blessed ... as I am.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Not Letting Go

We had a prompt about Letting Go. I couldn't think of much worth contributing, as I didn't think I had much baggage to discard. But sometimes, one person's response gives rise to other thoughts, so this is where I am heading. I am not responding to the prompt per se, but KG'Moms post caused me to begin to think along a certain tangent.

Her theme was letting go of her need to fix things, and she mentioned among other things the compulsion to pick up other people's garbage.

Okay then, I too am sometimes guilty of trying tidying up other people's messes.

The most obvious thing that comes to mind is my propensity to pick up other people strewn litter at our community mailbox. We have a lot of those community boxes in newer subdivisions in this country with newer being defined as something like the last 20 years,

Our community box is just a few houses down from our door, and ... well ... instead of me describing it, I shall go and take a picture.

Anyway, the point that I was getting to is that there are folk who tend to discard the bulk mail that we all love so much. They will drop it or stuff it between the boxes.

Junk mail stuffed so low and deeply that I haven't extricated it yet.

I don't know why they do this. We all have recycling boxes, and after checking our mail, we all head to our homes where those boxes are kept. It's not really a big ask to take your bulk mail home and toss it in the bin in passing. Except for some mysterious reason it is a big ask for some people. Sigh.

But no! They leave it for others to pick up. I started grabbing some of this litter and also mentioning it to a few neighbours, and for the most part, we seem to more or less keep the situation under control these days.

The other idiosyncrasy that comes to mind is my compulsion to tidy up the corrals where we return our shopping carts after use. I am unclear as to why so many must leave their carts by the opening because it's not that difficult to push it either to the back of the corral or at least to whatever carts are back there.

But no! It's somehow easier just to abandon the cart helter skelter, walk merrily away, and leave it for the next person to deal with. That next person more often than not is me. Even if they have left me enough room for my cart, I will almost invariably push those that I can toward the back of the corral to make life a little easier for the next person. (I should also take a picture of this some day.)

I am not too fastidious about this. I do not spend a lot of time stacking and lining up the carts, but I just try to quickly make a little space for the next person.

I do take some solace in the fact that I am not too hung up on this activity, for back in our previous town, we had a neighbour who was losing his faculties a little, and he would really get into organizing the carts. It made him very happy to take on this voluntary chore. So, it does worry me just a tad that I may be slipping like he was. Hopefully, as long as I can analyze it like this, I am not falling into the same predicament.

And that's my takeoff on the actual prompt, and, no, these are not habits that I need or intend to break.

Friday, August 12, 2016

First Visit to the Optometrist

The kids are with the sitter this week, but we were tapped with taking them to the optometrist. As per usual, we had the camera on hand. These are a few snaps, there are more on Facebook,

First, the preliminaries.

Then, some wait time before seeing the ophthalmologist.

The exam.

Results were good, and treats ensued.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

JJ's Sleepover

I posted of Danica's sleepover a little while ago. After a few days, it was JJ's turn.

He gets to go to the $ stores for a treat, but as he grows up it's getting harder and harder to find suitable items. And the ones that he used to find never lasted long anyway. But, out we went to two, and he came home with a finger printing kit that was pretty poor.

But he found things to do, like helping grandma with the flowers.

But that wouldn't do, so, the next day, we headed out again, this time with Sue to guide us. We went back to one of the dollar stores, but it was fruitless. Then we tried Giant Tiger. He picked up a package of skittles, and I picked up a yard game.

But Skittles aren't much of a treat, so we headed to the fifth store visit of the weekend: Canadian Tire, which for those who don't know, sells a lot more than tires.

He found various items to amuse him.

But nothing to purchase.

Until ...

But what is that, you ask. Watch.

It's along the lines of an old ring toss toy, except that it's a rather heavy wooden ball to be caught in a little, wooden cup.

Apparently, tongue action is part of the technique.

Success at last.

This took place at one of our local chip trucks while we were waiting for the fries to arrive.

So, that's likely it for sleepovers for awhile.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What's Up With the Weather

We are in the midst of yet another heat warning. Today, the temperature is projected to be 34C/93F, but very humid to boot with a "feels like" temperature of 41C/106F.

We have been in a droughtish situation for the past 4+ months, only getting about 50% of normal rainfall. This is after a winter of less snow that unusual, so the water level was lower to begin with. I have never seen the water so low in our river and could probably walk across the river in spots, not that I am about to put it to the test.

As previously posted, although the Indian River is always shallow, it was almost ridiculously so when we took the kids to the mill last week.

Strangely, we are not in a watering ban situation yet although we have been asked to take it easy. The gardens however, can stand a little help, so we do water from time to time. Speaking of gardens, they are already past their prime, with the daylilies being all but done and others on the wane. Also, when I went out to water last evening, I was soon and surprisingly stumbling about in the dark. This means that I will soon be able to complain about the cold instead of the heat. lol

Oddly enough the average temperature was near normal in July, but the way that it got there was unusual, for the daytime temperatures were higher than usual and the nighttime ones lower. In fact, we have been comfortably able to open the windows on most nights, even during the heat waves. I assume that this results from clearer-than-normal skies; less cloud  cover would result in more heat during the day but more heat loss at night.

So, AC is staying in the AC for most of the day just now, but the heat warning should be over after tomorrow, and the long range forecast looks less torrid.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Update on The Clay Girl

It's getting closer: the launch of Heather's book, The Clay Girl. The launch party, above, is on October 2, but it hits the bookstores on October 11.

I have mentioned this book before, but it's time for a bit of an update.

I don't think I told you that she was invited to the America Booksellers Convention in Chicago; she was the top new Canadian author invitee, and received all sorts of buzz. From there she was invited to a number of western American cities to do a reading and promote the book. How exciting! That tour is still in the planning stage but should occur sometime this fall.

You will see various little reviews on the information page to follow, but here is a quick response from our local bookstore owner, who was able to obtain a publisher's copy or whatever it's called. She also wishes to schedule a reading as does our local library as well as a book club in Ottawa.
Just want you know I recently finished your sister's book. Some beautiful writing in a very tough story. I really enjoyed it. Please keep in touch re scheduling an event. 
Thanks for bringing it to my attention. 
Here's how we all can help right now. Your library should have a Suggest a Purchase option on its website. The pertinent information is on the bottom of the flyer below, which is printable if you would like to take it into your library. Here it is separately: The Clay Girl is available from Jaguar Book Group • ISBN 978-1-77041-303-0 • Paper, $18.95 • OCTOBER 2016

BTW, you can also help by pre-ordering the book from Amazon in either paperback or Kindle format: Canada USA . Apparently, pre-ordering is helpful. In due course there will be an audible version, but I don't have any information yet.

And here is the info brochure that should be of printable resolution if you click.

Of course, I will give you notice closer to the actual release, but any pre-orders would be appreciated.