Early Morning

by Kathy Larson

The more things
change. . .
The
more
they
stay
the
same.

Doing dishes at 5:30
on a Saturday morning
is not one of them.

I left
the kitchen
in a mess
last night
after eating
takeout pasta
and watching
a movie
we’d seen
before.

Too tired.
Too lazy.
Too bored.
To clean up.
Like I should have.

Ah, well.
Something to do
this morning
when all the thoughts
crowding my head
refused to let me
sleep.

There’s something
that hasn’t changed.

I stayed home; my politicians didn’t

Talk about starting the New Year off on a sour note. Politicians all across Canada decided to take ‘well-earned and necessary’ vacations during the holidays. Even though they knew it was wrong.

I don’t believe any of the bullshit excuses that have been offered to explain away their stupidity; it all boils down to one thing and one thing only — elitism. Because they are in positions of power the rules just don’t apply. They all know that the little people (you and me) are powerless to do anything about their transgressions. And, so what if they get their hands slapped? They still got a tan, still got to enjoy swim-up bars, sun, sand and an escape. Yeah, they’ll face a few angry letters and phone calls, but, in the end, it will be business as usual. They’ll continue to take our money and our trust and laugh while they’re doing it.

I have taken government restrictions seriously. My family and friends have done the same. We gave up gathering together to celebrate EVERYTHING because we were told it was our responsibility and our duty in order to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. I have been sad, angry, depressed, morose, miserable, and fearful for the better part of a year. I want to plan holidays, I want to travel across Canada to visit my mother and siblings, I want to go out for dinner; I want my life back.

Should I just say to hell with it, I’ve done enough? Start ignoring the restrictions, stop wearing a mask, hop on a plane, defy government orders?

Or should I become a politician? Apparently, it makes you immune in a pandemic – no shots required.

Christmas Countdown — Day ?

by Kathy Larson

Predictably, I am behind in my goal to write every day about the Christmas/holiday themed movies we’ve been watching. What can I say? Life happens.

But I am here now, at the keyboard, attempting to remember everything we’ve watched and what I/we thought about it. Here goes: (these are in no particular order)

  1. Big Bake Holiday — I watched an episode of this just to see what it was all about. As the name suggests it’s about baking big things. In this case it was cakes, and they had to have an animated feature. The three teams who squared off in the episode I watched made a shotgun house in New Orleans complete with a working iconic street lamp; a California beach house with a little pink convertible that glowed in the dark; and the team from Thunder Bay, Canada(!) made a Japanese pagoda with a top that rotated. It was interesting to see how these bakers accomplished their designs, but the most amazing thing about it all for me was the fact the cakes were edible. That was an important criteria, and I guess, for people who have enough money to hire someone to make them a 4 or 5 foot tall cake with movable parts and working lights it would be an expectation. The team from Canada won, which made me smile, but I won’t be watching this show again.
  2. Black Christmas — we decided to mix things up a little and watch a horror/slasher movie. This wasn’t dreadful, but it wasn’t good, either. I was saddened to see Cary Elwes, of The Princess Bride fame in this one. Elwes is a good actor, I don’t know why he continues to make such dreadful movies as this one and The Purge series. Anyway. . .
    . . .this movie takes place at a college, Hawthorne College, to be exact and it is Christmas break. Most of the girls have left for the holidays and the plot centers around a few who either not going home or taking their sweet ol’ time getting on the road. Girls start getting mysteriously, and hilariously, killed, but no-one notices until it’s too late. There is a plucky heroine, who has suffered terribly in the past at the hands of a not-so-nice super-popular guy from one of the best fraternities, and her band of merry sisters, who save one, are all dispatched by the evil bad guys led by, you guessed it — Cary Elwes.
    Like I said it’s not dreadful, but unless you’re desperately in need of a switch from holiday goo, I’d avoid this one.
  3. The Holiday — this one is favourite of mine. I’ve seen it several times and it always makes me laugh and cry and feel really good when it’s over. Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black are the primary characters and Eli Wallach stars as an old Hollywood writer who Kate Winslet befriends.
    Released in 2006 it is the story of two women who are terrible at being in love and who decide to swap places for the holidays and try to forget about the men in their lives. Iris (Kate) is from Surrey, England, while Amanda (Cameron) is from, you guessed it, LA. It’s a sweet, rather predictable story, but the acting is wonderful and Kate Winslet is a joy to watch. As is Jude Law — that man is gorgeous! You’re not going to go wrong cuddling up with someone special to watch this movie.
  4. Santa Fake — this is a puzzling little movie. It’s available on Prime and was released in 2019. It stars Damian McGinty (Celtic Thunder), John Rhys-Davies, Jeff Fahey, Heather Morris and Judd Nelson.
    This is a story about a young Irish lad come to America who gets mixed up with a New York crime boss, ends up on the run and then disguises himself as a shopping mall Santa Claus in Santa Fe, New Mexico in order to avoid the hitmen sent to kill him. It sounds like it should be a helluva lot of fun, but it’s actually just kind of a mess. McGinty sings — thank goodness — because that makes sitting through this holiday mess of a movie more than a little tolerable.
    This is family friendly entertainment, it’s gentle and humourous and it’s not going to make you think too terribly hard. If you watch this one, you’ll probably be scratching your head at the end going: whaaaat?
    The bonus of watching this one? Doing a YouTube search after for performances by Celtic Thunder. They are amazing.

    Hallelujah!

Christmas Countdown — Day 5

by Kathy Larson

On day five we watched Love the Coopers. If you haven’t seen this one it was released in 2015 and stars Diane Keaton and John Goodman. They are a 60-ish couple whose relationship is in crisis and they are hosting what is to be one final family Christmas before they part ways. There is an eclectic cast of supporting characters that make up their extended, slightly wacky family.

This is a fun, funny movie, not too heavy on the syrup and with just enough charm that you don’t mind watching it again. Are the Coopers maybe a tad too wonderful? Perhaps, but we don’t really mind as we watch their various stories unfurl and they all find the happily ever after ending that we want them to find. This is Christmas, after all.

The performances in this movie are all good, all believable. Diane Keaton always amazes me with how beautiful she is and how absolutely effortless her acting seems. John Goodman does a good job as her husband of 40 years who is only giving up on their marriage because he can’t seem to get her attention anymore. All the other characters are well acted and believable, even if they are a little unbelievable. Even Rags, the dog, who narrates the story and is voiced by Steve Martin, is impeccable. He is a beautiful looking dog, has incredibly expressive eyes, and steals scenes while he’s stealing food off plates.

It was nice to curl up on the couch with my blanket and mug of warm cider and watch this one. I laughed, I cried and then I went to bed feeling I’d been fairly entertained.

Love the Coopers was playing on standard cable, but we opted to find it on Netflix so that we didn’t have to watch a bunch of commercials. Hope you enjoy it.

Are those sleigh bells I hear?

Christmas Countdown — Day 4

by Kathy Larson

Today’s choice was Jingle Jangle, A Christmas Journey. This is a Netflix original movie, released this November.

I had high hopes for this one based on the trailer. It stars Forest Whitaker, Ricky Martin, Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose and Phylicia Rashad. The cast is nicely rounded out by a host of other talented actors. The special effects in this one also play a starring role.

It’s a simple plot: man has everything, man loses everything, man becomes bitter and turns his back on life. Jump forward 30 or so years and he is forced, through the machinations of an innocent, equally talented as himself grandchild, to confront his fears and embrace life again.

This is a musical — however, the singing is kept to a minimum, and there are only a handful of stunning, though sadly repetivive, dance scenes. The sets, costumes and musical score are all beautiful — you definitely know that this is a fantasy. Victorian England, or wherever the story is supposed to be taking place, never looked so clean or colourful.

The movie was . . . okay. I wish I could say it was fantastic, but it just wasn’t. Despite all the lavishness, and the depth of the actors involved it fell flat. Whitaker seems to sleepwalk through his role, while others seem to go way over the top in trying to deliver their performances. The shiningest light in the whole movie is young Madalen Mills, who plays Journey. She has a lovely voice, and brought to her character a simple and honest portrayal of a young girl trying to forge a relationship with her grumpy grandfather.

This is family friendly entertainment. If I was going by a star rating I’d give Jingle Jangle 2.5 stars out of 5.

Jingle, jingle, jangle!

Christmas Countdown — Day 3

by Kathy Larson

Day 3 was a bit of a struggle. I wasn’t feeling particularly festive after what can only be described as a ‘trying’ day. But, I persevered and after a little bit of searching I stumbled upon It Happened One Christmas.

The movie was released in 1977 and it stars Marlo Thomas. Remember her? Danny Thomas’ daughter, star of That Girl and The Marlo Thomas Show. For a while Marlo was a huge star on television and personified the all-American, girl next door. I remember watching That Girl, it was funny and, for its time, groundbreaking.

But, we are not here to discuss old tv shows. We are here to talk about It Happened One Christmas.

Essentially, this movie is a reimagining of It’s a Wonderful Life, with the main character roles reversed. Instead of George Bailey we have Mary Bailey. Instead of Mary Hatch we have George Hatch. It was a simple character switch that allowed the main plot of the movie to stay the same. Another character shift was to replace Clarence the angel, second class with Clara the angel, same designation. Cloris Leachman played Clara, and honestly, she was simply awful. It was a good thing that her role was much smaller in this adapted version of the story than was Henry Travers’ in the original.

Despite the movie hailing from 1977 it was easy to watch and not at all as dated as you might expect. That is due to the fact that they kept it true to the era of the original film — 1928 — so costumes, scenery, and attitudes were essentially the same. Bedford Falls was recognizable as Bedford Falls, supporting characters looked and sounded enough like their original counterparts that I sometimes found myself thinking they were the same actors from the 1946 IAWL.

The major changes were subtle, but important. In this version you have a strong, independent woman who wants to chart her own course through life, but, like her male counterpart George in the original story, sacrifices her personal goals and desires for the good of her family and community. The important distinction, however, is that Mary Bailey is the representation of the true feminist ideal that was being pursued in the last half of the twentieth century. She was smart, strong, beautiful, knew her own mind, was unselfish, thoughtful, and caring. On top of that she ran a successful business, managed to have and raise four children, looked after her injured war-hero husband and happily took a backseat to her younger brother’s dreams and aspirations. Through it all she remained perfectly put together, with impeccable clothes and beautifully done hair and make-up. And, unlike George Bailey, she never shows any frustration or anger at her situation (other than when she wishes she had never been born, there is no way that could have been left out of the story). Other than that one lapse, she is a stoic and smiling figure of the EVERY WOMAN all women should strive to be.

At least in the 70s. Now, of course, we know that for women to try and be all that is ridiculous. And exhausting. And not good for our mental health.

Political overtones aside, as in the original, this is charming little movie. It is not nearly as good as the original with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, but I didn’t expect it to be. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie the whole family can enjoy this will fill the ticket. We found it on Prime.

Happy holidays!

Christmas Countdown — Day 2

by Kathy Larson

Okay, so today I watched two Christmasy/holiday shows.

  1. The Holiday Baking Championship — I actually started watching this about a month ago. It’s a ton of fun. Jesse, the hunky host, who is actually a former NFL player, does a great job leading the show, introducing the day’s challenges, as well as adding some gentle humour. Today’s show saw the contestants get whittled down to six.
    I’m always amazed at what these bakers can whip up in the allotted hour to ninety minutes they’re given. Sometimes the ingredients are more than a little bizzare. Like the time they had to make a holiday dessert based on an ingredient from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Sage? Balsamic vinegar? Sausage? In the end they all presented some pretty astounding, and according to the judges, delicious desserts.
    This is a fun way to while away some COVID hours and get a little inspired to try some holiday baking. Check it out.
  2. Die Hard — Now some may argue that this is not a holiday movie, but I am firmly rooted in the camp that believes it is. It takes place on Christmas Eve, in New York (no city in the world dresses itself up better for the holidays than New York!), there is Christmas music playing during much of the movie, and who can dispute that Alan Rickman is the grinchiest Grinch that ever was?
    This movie is a classic. Originally released in 1988, it has stood up well and I had as much fun watching it this time (probably my twelfth, though I can’t honestly say for sure) as I did the first time. You can’t help but cheer for John McLean and I can barely watch without flinching every time he pulls all that broken glass out of his poor, battered bare feet.
    If you have been living under a rock and never seen the film (the best one, imho) then do yourself a favour and grab a bowl of popcorn, a pillow to grab on to and enjoy a fun, fun, fun ride.

    Well, that’s what I watched today. Hope this gives you some ideas for your own quarantine-until-Christmas television watching.

    Ho!Ho!Ho!

Christmas countdown. . .Day 1

by Kathy Larson

So, like most of the rest of the world we are essentially in lockdown again because of COVID 19. No one has actually said the dreaded l-word, but come on, we can’t invite anyone into our homes who doesn’t already live there, we’re restricted to ordering take-out (if we’re brave enough), and nearly every form of mass social interaction has been put under closure or extremely close to it. The only busy places these days are hospitals and emergency rooms.

God bless all the doctors, nurses and other front-line health care workers who continue to make sacrifices on our behalf. I am sure when this pandemic is finally over that there will be an annual global day of recognition instituted to pay tribute to their heroic efforts.

But this post is not a rant about COVID. No, it is about trying to get into the Christmas spirit.

And, I have decided that one way to do that, besides decorating super, super early, is to watch a Christmas or holiday themed movie or show every day from now until the BIG day.

This actually started a couple of weeks ago when I watched Bridget Jones’ Diary for the umpteenth time. Then I watched Last Christmas. Followed by The Man Who Invented Christmas.

I thought my pace of watching schmaltzy holiday movies was pretty good, though indulging a little early, but, what the hey. Then, new, tighter, more restrictive measures were put in place in the ongoing battle to manage the pandemic and I thought, somethings gotta change. Seeing as I’ve got to spend the bulk of my retired life cooped up in the house I might as well try and enjoy my time. Thus, the idea I mentioned above, was born.

It began in earnest last night with The Christmas Chronicles. If you haven’t watched this one yet, then do. It’s tons of fun, Kurt Russel is amazing as a pretty hot Santa, it’s cute but not too-cute, and it’ll leave you feeling good without having your heart torn out and stomped into fake snow. It’s playing on Netflix right now, but I’m pretty sure it can be found on many other stations. (Is that an old-fashioned reference?) Lol. You’ll figure it out.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a brief run-down of what I watched today.

Jingle, jingle!

Wash, rinse, repeat. Retirement + COVID = boring.

by Kathy Larson

Yes, this is another one of those laments about how COVID 19 has affected life. My life.

I woke up this morning and the first thought to pop in my head was: wash, rinse, repeat. I knew I was thinking about the day ahead. And it wasn’t going to be about doing laundry.

I retired a couple of years ago and so far I’ve enjoyed not having to live according to a work schedule. I got through the honeymoon phase all right — sleeping in, staying up late, reading books ALL day, then moved into the ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ phase with total enthusiasm and now I’m in the ‘so, what will I do today?’ phase.

Let me tell you, this phase has its challenges — and they’ve only been exacerbated by COVID.

Having all the time you want to do all the things you want is, in theory, a wonderful thing. Ah, to write, to take photos, to paint the house, to renovate the kitchen, to spend time with family, to travel, to have lunch with friends, to take all those lessons in all those interests that you’ve put on the shelf for all those years. . . The list is endless.

And, before COVID hit I was accomplishing some of that. But. . .

. . . it became apparent rather early on that just because I had all the time in the world and no schedule to adhere to, didn’t mean that others didn’t. Or, that those friends of mine who were also retired didn’t also have their own free-time plans that simply did not mesh with mine. It was all very disconcerting and more than just a little inconvenient.

Retirement, it turns out is a solitary journey.

There is no lunch room, or coffee breaks where you get to sit and gossip or talk about last night’s episode of The Amazing Race. There is no stopping off for a drink with friends after a trying day, or holiday parties to plan for. It takes a little while to get over that and to discover that you can find ways to fill those voids. And, that they are equally as enjoyable. But. . .

Enter COVID 19 and being confined to home.

Visits with family and friends screeched to a halt, holidays got cancelled, celebrations got shelved, renovations got delayed and classes got suspended. Indefinitely. Anything I wanted to do I had to do on my own. If I didn’t know how to do it I had to teach myself, or learn from YouTube videos.

Being self-sufficient, independent and reasonably able to follow instructions I’ve made out okay. But, it’s boring. With a capital B.

In the past 8 months I’ve learned a bunch of new stuff. Like how to take an online class using Zoom,. I’ve taught myself to knit (slippers are my current obsession). I’ve become more proficient with both my SLR and phone cameras and better at editing photos. I’ve experimented with numerous recipes and learned how to bake a beautiful bagel. I’ve started painting with watercolours — an online course sparked the interest and a few video lessons with my talented sister-in-law later I’ve discovered I even have a bit of a talent.

So, imagine being bored when you’ve got all that going on. Absurd. A year ago it would be.

When I got out of bed this morning it wasn’t with a sense of enthusiasm for taking on any of the many projects I’ve got on the go, it was with a sense of weariness and boredom. Sadly, this house, my home, the place I most like to be has become too familiar. Because I can’t leave it.

I can’t, on a whim, pop out the door and drop in on a friend for coffee. Whenever I do leave — usually to get groceries or the mail — I have to ensure that I have a mask in my purse, in my pocket and in the car, along with a good supply of hand sanitizer. I can’t sign up for classes at the local pool, I can’t attend the monthly book club held at our local library, I can’t go grab my grandkids and take them for lunch just because I feel like it.

Visits with my grandkids have to planned weeks in advance, and are subject to being cancelled on a moments notice. I can join online fitness classes, book clubs, painting lessons, cooking lessons, knitting lessons and have virtual visits with my mother and siblings. I’ve done all of that, and I’m tired of having to do it that way.

I’m whining and I know it. But I don’t care. When every day is a carbon copy of the previous one it’s hard to look with enthusiasm at your options and be inspired.

Today I’m going to make cinnamon buns, zucchini muffins, and English muffin bread. Then I’m going to go for a walk in the cold sunshine. Then I’m going to practice painting trees. Then I’m going to finish that pair of slippers. . .

Fields of Gold

August 14, 2020

by Kathy Larson

As I set out on my walk this morning I took in the stunning view of the fields of grain in the morning light. The word’s to Sting’s utterly beautiful and heartbreaking song, Fields of Gold, slipped into my mind. As I walked, I looked around me and noticed all the simple, commonplace objects of the lives of the people I share this town with.

Gardens tended with care and love, trailers parked in driveways, wind chimes hanging from the corners of decks and roofs, bird feeders busy with early morning gatherers, cars, toys, bikes, flower pots, curtains fluttering in open windows, the sound of a baby crying. It all made such a beautiful picture.

And my heart filled with joy and with sadness. Because it’s been a tough year, and the last couple of weeks have been tougher still. I cling to the idea of beauty and of hope and with Sting’s words washing through me I smiled as I made my way through the sleepy streets of my little town.

“Many years have passed since those summer days among the fields of barley
See the children run as the sun goes down among the fields of gold
You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley
You can tell the sun in his jealous sky when we walked in fields of gold
When we walked in fields of gold, when we walked in fields of gold.”

(Fields Of Gold lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

Lately. . .

by Kathy Larson

Lately I’ve been feeling the pull of the past; I get these odd tugs at my memory and for fleeting seconds I go back in time and my heart offers up fragments of bits and pieces of the many versions of me that I’ve been as I’ve struggled to become this woman, this person, this identity.

Snapshots of my childhood flit across my inner vision — fields of grain and candy red poppies swaying in the heat of summer; a feeling that if I could float across them, be borne away on dry, whispering oceans of delicate beauty my life would be . . .

Just the other day the breeze through my bedroom window brought with it a smell of damp earth and of dust heavy with the warmth of the sun and as I lay there, in my bed, contemplating the reasons for rising that day I relived another morning from many years past of sheets twisted around legs and drowsy smiles and an inkling of what might come and in that moment I lived such delirious happiness that when I thought upon it now, all grey haired, crows feet and papery skin I marvelled at how far I had come and smiled, because regret is such a silly waste of time.

Mine is a poor memory, details have not been carefully curated and there are times when I’ve struggled to believe that my life has even been half of what I imagine it was, but where my mind fails my heart triumphs. One line from a song heard when I was sixteen can cause it to beat erratically and once more I am that young girl so sure yet unsure in my elephant-leg bell bottoms, platform shoes and pink plaid smock top striding down the dusty small town street of my youth wishing I was anywhere but there. A blue mustang pulls up, I hop in, Aerosmith blasts from an 8-track player, tires squeal, there is no better moment than the one I am in right now.

In reliving these moments past, these still-lifes, these clips and snap-shots of my life story I have come to recognize the finiteness of every hour that I have left and, consequently, I have wasted many of them thinking about all the mistakes I’ve made, the wrongs I’ve committed, the people I’ve hurt, the chances I didn’t take, the fears and prejudices I’ve allowed myself to be subject to, and then, in turn, I have used some of those hours to remind myself of the love I’ve given and been given, of the kindnesses I’ve shown and been shown, of the sacrifices I’ve made and of those made for me, of the successes I’ve enjoyed, and of the life I’ve lived, and though every hour may seem shorter than the one before I need only remember: these are my hours. And the heart will remember.

A tidy observation. . .

by Kathy Larson
copyright 2020

I’m cleaning the bathroom today. Giving it a deep clean. All the soap scum and crud that had built up on the stainless steel shower caddy was really beginning to gross me out. So, out came the wire brushes, the Allen’s cleaning vinegar, the Norwex scrubbing paste. That bathtub and shower caddy shine, I can tell you!

Of course, deep cleaning means getting up close and personal with all the bathroom fixtures — toilet, sink, cabinets, light fixtures, shelves, hooks and bars.

And that is what has led to this post and this observation.

No-one, absolutely no-one prepares you for the curse and the soul-fatiguing fight of trying to clean bathroom dust. It is like glue. All that humidity and the particles of soap, cleansers and shampoos that get trapped with it make it nearly impossible to wipe away.

On my hands and knees, (hands protected by rubber gloves) I am futilely swiping, wiping, dabbing and thrashing at the dust that has attached itself to the base of the toilet. No matter how many times I rinse the cloth and start anew there is always more of that foul mess of hair, dust, and body detritus that has swirled about and been deposited on every porcelain surface any time any one has used the bathroom.

I am nearly in tears with the frustration of this fight. But I will persevere. This bathroom will be CLEAN.

And just so you know — I am not a newbie at this bathroom cleaning thing. No, I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. Now, finally, in my 60s I am speaking out about this, this horror, that is cleaning a bathroom.

Beware all you young men and women excitedly embarking upon the journey of independence and having your own place. With independence also comes chores and cleaning, and the worst chore is cleaning bathroom dust. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

RIP Mr. Prine

Apri; 8, 2020

by Kathy Larson

Sad news today. John Prine, one of America’s best songwriters died from complications related to coronavirus.

I was introduced to the music of John Prine many moons ago when I was just a young girl. My Uncle Paul, one of my father’s younger brothers had come for a visit. He and my father would get out their guitars and sit around playing while us gaggle of kids watched and listened in awe. It was at one of these musical interludes that Uncle Paul played a song called “Dear Abby”. The song was funny, and that’s what caught my attention, but it was more than that. It was smart and it was making a social comment, something that at that early stage in my development I was just learning to tune in to. I’m not sure who asked who the artist was, but I’ve never forgotten the name: John Prine.

Over the passing of years I’ve listened sporadically to Mr. Prine’s music. I think that somewhere, hidden away with all my other albums is a copy of Souvenirs, an amazing little album of stories and songs. One of my favourites is “Grandpa Was a Carpenter”. It’s just the perfect example of his amazing ability to put life into words, to translate the emotions and feelings of everyday, ordinary existence into something we can all relate to and understand.

You’ll be sadly missed, Mr. Prine. Rest easy.

For a sample of his gentle genius check out this link: https://youtu.be/2xhmPectY9U

Coronavirus, Where is Spring? and Keeping Motivated

April 6, 2020

by Kathy Larson

It is snowing. Again. I am so tired of snow. Of winter. I want Spring to come. To see trees budding, grass growing and flowers peeking out from cool earth. This has been a long, cold season, made that much worse by this coronavirus that has gripped the world.

For the past few weeks I, like millions of others, have been glued to the news, following the ever-climbing numbers associated with this virus. Numbers of infected, of tested, of deaths. Numbers of unemployed, of businesses closed, of personal debt predictions. Numbers related to health care — those who are working to help others, those who are helping others who have themselves become infected, and the constant call for masks, respirators and other ppe.

Watching and listening to this news became an obsession. I felt that if I wasn’t paying attention 24-7 then I might miss something critically important. In doing my part by staying home and only leaving the house when absolutely necessary (and for a daily walk to get some fresh air) I had come to think that staying tuned to the news ALL THE TIME was my obligation and responsibility.

I see now that this was an unhealthy, though understandable, reaction to the crisis our country, and the world is facing. So, yesterday, I took the day off. I didn’t watch the news even once. We made some phone calls, placed a couple of video calls just to check in with family, and then I turned it all off for the day.

Instead of drowning in bad news and despairing numbers I soaked in a bath of epsom salts and lavender scented bubbles. I treated myself to a lovely refreshing coconut face mask, gave myself a mini-manicure and then immersed myself in feel-good music in a room all by myself. I allowed myself to think of other things and not feel guilty about ignoring the pandemic. When I emerged from my happy little bubble a couple of hours later I felt much, much better.

The hardest thing about this period of mandatory isolation is staying motivated. Though I have all this time on my hands I can’t seem to do much with it. I try, I really do, but more often than not, I fail to accomplish much of anything.

You’d think I’d have written a novel by now, with all this uninterrupted time. But how can I write anything when I’m glued to the television and my brain is preoccupied by thoughts of impending doom and the coming apocalypse?

I could have crocheted a couple of afghans in this surfeit of spare time, but all I have to show is a couple of produce bags and a rather large shopping tote. They’ll come in handy once the ban on plastic bags is reinstated — if it’s reinstated.

There is a roll of wallpaper I bought over a month ago sitting on top of the cupboard I bought it for that stares forlornly at me every time I walk by. Yeah, yeah, I see you, I answer silently each time, I’ll get around to you, just give me time.

Maybe. This week. We’ll see.

I know this much: the television is staying off this week. At least until the evening news.

It’s Time

by Kathy Larson

March 30, 2020

The struggle continues. COVID-19 rages on, and the world is – except for Brazil – on lockdown.

Trump and Bolsonaro, best buds. Bolsonaro is an unchecked dictator, whereas, thank God and any other deities you can think of, Trump is a wannabe dictator who is in check.

But I did not come here today to write about the pandemic. No, today I came here to write about anything else but.

So, here it is: Candles.

I am reading an article from a December issue of Canadian Living magazine about candles. How they’re made, what makes a good candle, wax formulations, the scents and essences used, and the different types of wicks employed. Who knew a candle could be so complex?

In addition to the CL article I have also recently read a short piece in a Martha Stewart Living mag that touched briefly on the art of candles. Now, of course, this is Martha Stewart, so I was expecting a little bit of extravagance in relation to the candles represented.

But it was the CL article that blew my mind.

The cheapest candle mentioned in their article was $35. The most expensive was $150. In the MSL article they mentioned candles from Bath and Body Works (reasonably priced at around $22) and went up to a high of $110 (US $, I’m presuming).

I love candles. Always have. From the time I was a teenager and bought my first sand candle. Remember those? Wax was poured into sand moulds — some very intricate — and dyed in incredible colour combinations. They were funky and cool and nobody burned them.

Eventually, I had a big collection of them. Years later they would, sadly, wind up in the garbage. Why did I throw them out? Wax does not go bad, but, what did I know. All I recall is that they had become tacky and dusty with age and I did not want them around anymore.

Candles make a perfect gift, both to give and to receive. They are nice to tuck into a small hostess gift, or to give to someone you don’t know well, or, even better, to someone you do know extremely well. You can’t go wrong with a candle — it’s not like giving a bottle of red and then finding out that your recipient only drinks white, or doesn’t — gasp! — drink wine at all.

All the candles I’ve been given over the years (since the sad sand candles, that is) have met the match. I burn them and I delight in them. The soft flickering of a flame in a dim room, the delicate scent of lavender, and sandalwood, of bergamot and lime, can instill in me a sense of peace and calm like nothing else is able to.

That said, I would NEVER pay $150 for a candle! I don’t care if it is hand-poured, that the wax is derived from apricot kernels, or that the scent is made from sustainably harvested ingredients and lovingly distilled according to ages-old traditions. It’s a candle! It’s going to burn! Those scents are fleeting! And you’re still left with a cheap glass or porcelain container that you won’t know what the hell to do with but you can’t throw out because that would just be wrong.

A candle is one of the simplest things there is on this earth. It’s wax and a wick with maybe a little scent thrown in. Regardless of the price, they’re all going to burn when lit. I can’t imagine I’d feel very peaceful watching a $150 candle burn — that would be like watching money go up in smoke.

So, I’ll continue to buy Yankee brand candles, Bath and Body Works candles, and candles from The Body Shop when they are on sale. I’ll buy candles from small craft fairs, farmer’s markets, and local artisans quaint little shops. I’ll buy them as souvenirs, as gifts, and as odor-eliminators for my bathrooms. I will burn them on a cold winter night while bundled in a cozy blanket, or on a beautiful summer evening with soft breezes caressing my cooling skin as we enjoy a glass of wine on the deck.

As interesting and informative as the Canadian Living and Martha Stewart Living articles were, all I really learned is that there are people out there who are willing to pay ridiculous prices for something just so they can say they did.

Not me, though.

If you care to, please answer this question: Would you pay over $50 for a candle, and why?

Waiting for the Morning Address

by Kathy Larson

March 25, 2020

Here I sit on this gorgeous early Spring morning. It’s going to warm up to one or two degrees (C) today and I am looking forward to getting out for a nice long walk in the fresh air later this afternoon. It’s about the only thing I have to look forward to these days in the midst of social distancing because of COVID 19.

While I wait for that bright spot in my day I am also waiting for our Prime Minister to make his daily address. I am not a huge fan of JT, but I do admire that he has taken to speaking to the country on a daily basis. He is doing a good job of leading us through this unprecedented time — unlike the bozo south of the border.

Mr. Trudeau has provided an anchor of calm and reason — though sometimes he comes off sounding a little too much like an annoyed and angry parent admonishing his children — “If I have to tell you one more time to stay home. . .!” But then again, if people were acting more like responsible adults and less like willful children, he wouldn’t have to take that surly tone.

Compare that to the message Donald Trump is delivering. He sounds petulant, he spreads false information, he encourages flouting the best medical advice given by his own professionals, and now, not even two weeks into this pandemic hitting America’s shores, he is telling people that “America will be open for business sooner rather than later.” Along with that irresponsible message he has also included another, far more dire and potentially dangerous: He has publicly stated that Americans are going to start committing suicide by the thousands if businesses don’t reopen.

The power of suggestion, Mr. Trump.

What kind of a leader says such a thing? Especially when people are at their most vulnerable. Like a vast majority of the thinking world I am baffled that this cretin has a faithful following. That there are those who think he is doing a good job, that he is actually ‘making America great again’. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is making America a laughingstock and a pariah on the world stage.

Mr. Trudeau, in contrast, offers informed, practical and constructive information and support to the people he leads. Daily, he puts himself out there to provide a picture of steadfast and confident leadership. He talks about helping people through this crisis, about supporting businesses and municipalities, about getting supplies and support to front line workers and to making sure that people don’t fall through the cracks and wind up in situations where the idea of suicide may seem like the only possible solution.

Mr. Trudeau is not the political leader I had hoped for when I voted in the last election, but I am grateful that he is there each morning at 9:15. His calm and poise helps give me a sense of hope and makes this difficult period of social distancing a little easier to bear. He makes me proud to be Canadian, and so, so grateful that I live in the greatest country in the world.

Home-bound

by Kathy Larson

March 19, 2020

So, we’ve been social-distancing and semi-self-isolating for four days now. Honestly, it hasn’t been that much of a change in normal for me. I stay in most days, happy to read or crochet or dabble at writing. I get the housework and laundry done, listen to music, do a crossword puzzle, maybe go for a walk if it’s not too cold. The aquafit classes I attended were my biggest social outings, but that was only two or three times a week. Walking/jogging on the indoor track at Mac Island, though done in the company of others, was also, mostly solitary. With my headphones on I cruised around the oval for 45 minutes then took myself down to Second Cup for a honey tea latte, half-sweet. Please and thank you.

I don’t care to shop — never have. Going to movies is fun, but costly, so we don’t do a lot of that. Eating in restaurants tends to be disappointing, so don’t miss that, and we’re past the age where going out to the bar or a nightclub is even a consideration. Once in a blue moon we’d go to the casino and lose a hundred dollars, but, again, not something we do on a regular basis.

Sadly, neither of us volunteers anymore, so we have nothing to miss on that score. I keep saying I’m going to find something to volunteer for, but haven’t yet, and now, with COVID-19 in our lives most opportunities have disappeared.

It’s funny, when our son was young and I worked full-time and had a busier social life I volunteered a lot. Both my husband and I did. We were always engaged in some community group or other and it never seemed like we were overwhelmed. Now when I think of the time I’d have to commit to something I find all kinds of excuses and reasons why I’d rather not. Maybe that’s just age. I don’t know. I do know when this is over that I’m going to have to change my thinking.

I tried the online grocery order thing. From Superstore. Because of the current state of things I got less than half of what I had ordered. No toilet paper, no chicken, and most shocking — no chocolate bar! Oh, and the bag of avocados was rotten. The process was pretty easy, actually, and I’d definitely try it again. Say, perhaps, when we’re getting back from a holiday. Some day. In the future. When the coronavirus is no more.

After picking up my half-order of groceries from SS I drove over to Save-On to see if they had what I wanted. They did, though it was considerably more costly than SS. We are now well stocked with toilet paper, chicken and giant bottles for water — just in case.

Save-On had some lovely ahi tuna steaks in their meat section so that’s what we had for supper last night. Maple-mustard glazed tuna steaks (get the recipe here: https://cooktoria.com/ahi-tuna-steak/) with sweet potato oven fries and a fresh salad. Yum.

Being sequestered at home at first seemed like A BIG DEAL. For us, really, it’s not. We watch a couple of shows in the evening, play a couple of card games, then head upstairs to bed around 10:30. Nothing different from our normal routine. Other than the ever-present reality that we can’t go anywhere simply because we want to.

I can see isolation being tougher on families with small children, those with medical problems, those with addiction problems, those with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. My heart goes out to them, but that is all. This virus makes it virtually impossible to do anything other than sympathize.

It’s hard to think of anything positive during this global crisis, but if there is anything good at all to be gleaned from it, it is this: Maybe, with all this time for reflection and self-reflection, there will be a returning to the meaning and importance of family and community. By being forced together maybe people will discover, or, re-discover, the simple joy of time well spent in one another’s company. That’s not going to happen for everyone — that would be fantasy — but if it happens at all it is something definitely worth celebrating.

Just sittin’ around doin’ nothin’

by Kathy Larson

March 10, 2020

All those apostrophes are rather annoying, now that I see them when I look up from the screen. Ah, well, too bad. There they will stay.

I’m in a funny mood today. Not bored, exactly, not blue, either, just sort of blah or bleck. Don’t know how else to say it — other than my mood matches the day, which is grey and a bit windy with ice slowly melting from the eaves.

I took a night-time Aleve last night when I went to bed because I had an incredibly sore right shoulder and arm and I wound up sleeping til 9 o’clock this morning. Never a good start to the day for me. I like to be up between 7 and 7:30 — it gives me the illusion of feeling PRODUCTIVE. Though, mostly, I’m not.

I may get a little writing in. I may go for a walk. I may plan what we’re going to have for supper. I may write a letter to someone. I may text one of my sisters, or call my mom. I may decide to have lunch with my husband or go do a little grocery shopping. The possibilities are absolutely endless.

As I sit here typing this I’m also thinking about our upcoming trip home. We will leave tomorrow night and make the 5 hour drive home to Bon Accord. I’m looking forward to possibly seeing my son and his family — though chances are they’ll be busy. We were expecting company for the weekend, but the coronavirus and unpredictability of March weather has put an end to that. So, it will be a quiet weekend, most likely spent watching hockey. Go Canucks!

This back and forth between Fort Mac and Bon Accord has been going on for five years and I am ready for it to be over. I want to live in one place — my home in Bon Accord. I want to watch the snow melt from my gardens, I want to sit in the spring sunshine on my deck and enjoy an early morning coffee with home-made Irish cream generously poured. I want to wake to the sounds of magpies and blue jays fighting in the big pine outside my bedroom window. I want to see the crocus in bloom, I want to hear the frogs creaking and croaking from the lagoon across the road. I want to hear the beautiful, soul stirring sound of the sand hill cranes as they wing their way northward as I toil in the cool, moist earth of my gardens.

I want, I want, I want.

I guess that’s why I’m feeling as I do today.

Giving in to Hysteria

by Kathy Larson

March 9, 2020

I was all set to go to the pool today, but after watching the morning news I’ve changed my mind.

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is the reason. I don’t normally get easily spooked by things like this, but I’m thinking maybe this time I’d be right to avoid any unnecessary exposure.

The public pool/recreation center at MacDonald Island here in Fort McMurray is world class. Among its many features is an Olympic size pool, massive whirlpool, and water slides. Like all public swimming pools it is constantly busy with lessons, classes and just casual drop-ins looking for a little escape from the daily grind. The staff who work there are also fantastic, and they work very hard to keep the facility clean and safe.

But.

People in Fort McMurray travel. A lot. There is an extremely high population of immigrants in this area and they frequently travel back and forth between their northern Canadian home and their birth countries. Those who are not part of the immigrant population tend to travel as well. If they are not workers from another province travelling back and forth for work, then they are permanent residents seeking a respite from the solitariness and seclusion of life in a northern city with not much to do except stare at the snow. Any day I am at the pool I overhear people talking about their latest trip.

Call me paranoid, but with more cases of the novel-coronavirus surfacing daily in Alberta I don’t think congregating in public places is a very good idea. Especially in a place where people have exposed themselves to the risk of contracting such a virus. So, I’m going to take a pass on my aquafit classes for a while. I’m also going to avoid shopping malls, and large public gatherings of any kind. I’ll try to keep my grocery shopping to a minimum, though I’m not going to resort to stock-piling toilet paper or hand-sanitizer. All that nonsense just makes me shake my head.

Instead I’ll practice common sense and hopefully wait this crisis out.

I wish everyone could do the same. It’s not possible, I know; the world has to keep on keeping on, after all. Kids need to go to school, moms and dads need to go to work, goods and services have to get delivered. I hope, for all our sake, that this virus is nearing the end of its life cycle and that life can soon return to normal. In the meantime, we should take whatever common sense precautions we can to prevent the spread of this virus from getting worse. If that means missing a pool day, then so be it.

I am going to miss my pool days; this self-imposed restriction is only temporary, getting sick and possibly dying is not.

I Can’t Help Smiling at the Absurdity of It

by Kathy Larson

I go to aquafit classes usually twice a week. I enjoy it. The warm water, the exercise, the feeling that I’m doing something good for myself and the camaraderie and companionship of other women my age.

Most of us, not all, though, are in our 60s, if not older. There are few younger girls — Russian, or Eastern European, I think. (There are quite a few of them, and it makes me wonder what they are doing here in Fort McMurray. They speak very little English and tend to stay in their tight little groups, but that’s another story.) Also, we’ve got a few older, retired gents amongst us, but I don’t talk to them. (They have their own little exclusive group.)

Our instructor is young, extremely energetic and loud. I think she must have been in the military at one time, because she can command us to do things from her spot up on the pool deck and we unflinchingly obey. “Come on, people,” she barks, “keep those shoulders back and those heads still. No leaning!” and “White water, white water! I want to see that water moving around you!” To be fair, she does all this with a smile and we love her.

She plays music for our classes — loudly — and this is where the absurdity for me comes in. Sometimes it’s oldies — music from the 50s and 60s. There are the mixes that Sarah puts together herself, the latest, hottest hits that most of us don’t have a clue about. Other times it’s actual pre-packaged work-out mixes with covers of hits from every generation — the equivalent of elevator music, only for the pool. It is these mixes that strike me as hysterical.

Imagine Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, Sam Smith’s Dancing with a Stranger, Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road or Lady Gaga’s Shallow remixed and sped up so that a bunch of gray-hairs can get their groove on in the pool. It’s hilarious! Every time I hear Billie Eilish’s gravelly, ultra-cool, extremely young voice singing the words to Bad Guy I just about bust a gut. Does she know that they’ve re-marketed her song in this way? Do any of them know?

And this is where the grumpy, cynical old lady in me shows herself. I’m 100 percent sure they do. No matter how cool any of these artists are — these rappers and gangsters and hip-hoppers, these fresh faces and up and comers — they are all in it for the money.

They may have started out with lofty ideals and strong convictions about their particular unique-ness and visions, but let’s face it — once your music has made it on to a mix tape for ‘old’ people exercising in a public pool — all of that becomes moot.

For the record: I like Bad Guy. Even more absurd: My husband has downloaded a sound-bite of it on his phone as a ring tone.

I can just imagine the reaction of 15 year-olds the world over realizing that their grandparents are listening to their music and liking it.

March 6, 2020

Here I go again. . .

Something happened. I haven’t felt like writing for over 3 years. It feels like I’ve lost a piece of myself. But. . .I don’t have the determination to find it and get it back.

Lately, I’ve been trying to force myself into writing. I’ve entered a couple of free contests, I’ve done tons of ‘research’ and read a gazillion winning entries of said contests, but still, I haven’t felt that spark.

I miss the spark. I miss how excited I used to get at the prospect of finding time to write. To pigeon-holing that time just for me. Now, I’ve got all the time I could possibly want. I’m retired. And the last thing I ever do is make time for writing. Maybe it wasn’t the writing that excited me, after all, maybe it was the selfish pursuit of time I could claim as just my own.

Throughout my day I find myself thinking of things I could write about, things I’m passionate about. Rarely, though, do I have the tools with me necessary for writing when these thoughts occur. So, I think I’ll hold on to them until I’m at the computer or have a pen and paper, but by the time I get around to it those thoughts have gone. So, I do a crossword puzzle. Or crochet. Or make something to eat.

No spark.

I want to write. I love to write. Why can’t I want to love to write?

Maybe, writing here will help. I’ll see.

Fingers on keyboard, words on screen, match to flame. Spark.

Day 3 — the purge continues

20180103_204556Every time I write the word purge I laugh a little. It reminds me of the terrible The Purge movie we watched a few years ago. It was worse than dreadful — it was violent and boring. I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Now, of course, there are sequels. Go figure.

The word purge is an ugly word. It sounds ugly when you say it; it’s ugly when written. Even the meaning is ugly.

Purge (noun)

:an act of removing by cleansing; ridding of sediment or other undesired elements
:the act of clearing yourself (or another) from some stigma or charge
:rinse, clean, or empty with a liquid – purge the old gas tank
:eject the contents of the stomach through the mouth – He purged continuously
:make pure or free from sin or guilt
:an abrupt or sudden removal of a person or group from an organisation or place – he died in a purge by Stalin
:clear of a charge
:excrete or evacuate (someone’s bowels or body) – The doctor decided that the patient must be purged
:oust politically – Deng Xiao Ping was purged several times throughout his lifetime
:rid of impurities – purge the water – purge your mind
But my intent to purge my life of unnecessary things is not ugly. It is liberating. Like some forms of purging listed above, it is actually a good thing.
Today I rid myself of magazines. I have hung on to these magazines for ages. Some of them were from the early 1990s. I kept some of them in the bathroom in case someone needed reading material. I, personally, wouldn’t touch them. And as far as I know neither did anyone else. They were dusty, wrinkled from constantly being steamed from the shower, and out of date.
Dr. Oz’s advice on how to stock your refrigerator so you’ll lose weight is only good for one reading as far as I’m concerned. When I picked up the women-only fitness magazine and leafed through it I thought for one brief moment that I should try some of the workouts, but then I remembered that I went for a walk this morning. That’s good enough at my age.
It’s not like I ever want to wear a bikini again — no, a nice high-waisted tankini with tummy control, waist minimizer and boob support is my style these days. Something I can walk around the resort, beach, deck in with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other. My pretty-young-thing days are all behind me and I’m happy.
I also got rid of Christmas and holiday magazines. I had been clinging to these as though they were precious artefacts. These magazines represented the romanticized versions of the holidays that I always tried to create. I made a few of the crafts, tried out recipes, and read inspirational stories of stranger’s special holiday memories. So many times I felt dissatisfied after the holidays were over because they had not lived up to the expectations I’d borrowed from the glitzy pages of those magazines.
This year I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving; I spent it with my parents and some of my siblings. I didn’t have to do a thing. It was my dad’s last turkey dinner and I felt blessed just to be able to be there and share that moment.
Christmastime, I was home, but because I spend half my time living in Fort McMurray where my husband works I didn’t decorate or put up a tree this year. I said I didn’t have time. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like decorating.
I didn’t go through my usual routine of replacing my dishes with Christmas ones, putting out Christmas linens or stringing garlands all over the place. The Dickens’ village didn’t get set up and didn’t have Christmas blankets and teddies strewn all over.
We spent Christmas morning at my son’s house and enjoyed all the festive decorating my daughter in law does. Their tree was lovely. We opened presents, we had our traditional eggs-benny breakfast and then my husband and I went home. None of it was inspired by a picture or article from a magazine. It was genuine, it was memorable and it made me happy.
When I saw all those magazines today it occurred to me that they are meaningless. Holidays are not about how your house looks, or how your table is dressed. It’s not about decorating advice from the pros or how to host the best Thanksgiving dinner – EVER! It’s about family, creating memories and sharing love and laughter, tears and joy.
I didn’t even break a sweat as I carried all those magazines down to the recycle bin.