Good Morning — October 25th

It’s a snowy morning here in Bon Accord today.  The first snow happened on Sunday while I was away in Calgary at an Education Employees Conference, so I missed it.  Can’t say that I’m heart-broken.

Despite having grown up in the land known in other parts of the world as The Great White North I have never had a love of winter.  It is something to be endured as best as possible, always with the thought in mind that it won’t last forever.  The Great White North name tag was I think originally intended only for the North West Territories where it is pretty much covered in snow year round, but somehow it came to define all of Canada — rather unfairly, I think.  Winter is a large part of life in Canada — for us here in Alberta approximately half our year — but in other parts of the country it’s not as long, as cold or as depressing.   Alberta and the prairies are the hardest hit, most other areas experience the joy of winter for only about 4 months.  And the temps are usually not as severe as they can be here.  But, regardless of where you live, winter pretty much sucks.

So, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. . .

We’ve got a week left in October.  Sigh.  The time has gone by so quickly.  Again.  Before I know it it’s going to be Christmas!  I am looking forward to seeing my grandkids in their costumes and going out trick or treating with them on Sunday night.  Yes, the shameless solicitation for candy — such a questionable, but fun activity.  I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween — I’m not into dressing up, not into kids getting stomach aches from overeating cheap candy, not into the temper tantrums that result from sugar overdoses, not into the senseless, petty rivalries that can develop over costumes, not into the sometimes mean-spirited pranks perpetrated on All Hallow’s Eve.  But, it is a tradition in our culture and to not participate singles you out as somewhat of a loon — so I’ve always participated, half-heartedly, and tried to keep my loonieness hidden.

Halloween has become a huge industry in our country.  In North America.  Next to Christmas and Valentine’s Day, it’s the next big retail sales event of the year.  Cards, costumes and candy.  Billions of dollars in sales.  There are industries devoted to Halloween decorations — the lights, decorations and music to go along with it.  And many people get right into it.  Much more than they get into Christmas.  In fact, I know of several people who like Halloween much more than they do Christmas.  It’s more fun they say.

I’m a Christmas girl myself.  I like the soft sentiments of Christmas, the giving and the spirit of generosity it evokes.  Christmas has its problems, I know.  It’s the holiday besmirched  with the highest rates of suicide and domestic violence, substance abuse and financial hardship, but. . .

. . .it’s also a holiday of hope.  Hope that all those negative things can be purged from our lives and that we can be reborn, that our lives can be everything we ever imagined them to be.  Halloween doesn’t offer that.  It offers only a brief escape from reality and encourages us to be selfish and over-indulgent.  Is that really all that terrible?  Given our lifestyles that are for the most part daily  exercises in self-indulgence and self-satisfaction.  I suppose not.  But that’s why I prefer Christmas.

Celebrating Christmas  makes me focus on others more than myself, makes me take stock of how I’m living my life, makes me take stock of what is important in my life and forces me to make important decisions and make changes that encourage putting the needs of others a little higher up on my list than they might otherwise be.   That all sounds very altruistic, and makes it sound like I’m a bit of a prude, and that is simply not the case.  I can be every bit as self-centered as everyone else.

I am not Sister Theresa, or Gandhi, or even the woman who runs the Food Bank in our small community.  I spend a lot of time complaining because I don’t have this or that, that I can’t afford to go on a tropical holiday every winter, that it’s going to be a while yet before I can replace the aged lino in my home with new hardwood flooring.  I get a bit annoyed every Friday when I don’t win the ‘big one’ — because I’m convinced that if I could only win all my wishes would come true and all my problems would be solved.

So. although I began this with a lament that time is skimming by too quickly and that the snow has arrived meaning winter is truly here, I am going to end on a positive note.  We’re well into what is considered the ‘holiday season’.  It began with Thanksgiving and will end with New Year.  Three months of over-indulgence in all aspects of our lives.  But, it can be good this over-indulgence as long as we keep it in perspective and try to ensure that others — especially those we love — are the beneficiaries of our spirit of giving and fun.  And that we don’t make ourselves crazy with trying keep up with the sometimes unrealistic expectations that all that over-indulgence can create.

Oops — guess that wasn’t as positive an ending as I’d planned.


It will get better

Bullying — I see it every day in the school I work in, I hear about it, read about it and see it in the movies and television programs  I watch. Much of the time it’s treated like a joke — you know — kids will be kids, it was just a bit of harmless fun, or, what’s most disgusting– the victim brought it on themselves.  These are just a few of the excuses I regularly hear used to excuse bullying.

There has always been bullying, there will always, unfortunately, be bullying.  But the LEVEL of bullying today has reached new and horrific heights. With our access to technology that allows for the lightning fast spread of malicious gossip and pictures, the damage that can be wrought on someone’s life is inestimable.

For some reason, bullies are always pardoned, always looked upon as being victims themselves.  They’re often painted as being misguided, or the unfortunate products of bad environments,or as having been shown no love or affection; the list of excuses for their behaviour is boring and long.

Victims, however, are routinely looked upon with pity and in some instances, disgust and intolerance.  It’s not often you’ll hear someone say that a victim of bullying is a product of a bad environment, or that someone should ‘reach out’ to them.  As a result, victims of bullying have, in recent years, resorted to extreme behaviour in an effort to strike back and be heard.

First it was violence.  Surely you remember Columbine?  Taber?  Oklahoma?  There were many other mass killings/suicides world-wide due, reportedly, to young people reacting violently after suffering years of abuse and humiliation at the hands of bullies.  Now, kids are simply killing themselves because they see no way out.  Kids as young as 11 years old.  That is tragic beyond words.

Lately, many high-profile ‘stars’ have come forward to speak out for these kids and to offer them some hope and support.  Their gestures and pleas have been strong and emotional, and in some cases, calculated.  But, I suppose any attention is better than no attention.

This man, Joel Burns, has also decided to speak out.  He’s not a movie or tv star, not a famous football or hockey player, he’s just someone trying to do something to put an end to youth suicide caused by bullying.  His story is moving and courageous;  his message simple:  It will get better.

You should watch his speech:

If you know of someone being bullied — for any reason — take the time to tell them “it will get better’.  Maybe, you’ll save a life.

2,781 Views — all time

Just out of curiosity I decided to check how many hits I’ve received on this blog since I started it last October.  The magic number is 2,781.  I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the one hand I’m immensely pleased — because that number means I’ve written stuff that people have actually read, and that’s a pretty good feeling.  On the other hand, when I play the dreaded comparison game, it means I’m not getting the amount of traffic some other blogs do.

Should I be upset about this?  Should I be trying harder to generate more traffic? Should I change what I write about to give my blog more of a mass appeal factor?

Funny thing, while I sit here typing away — I don’t think I should be or do any of those things.  I’m quite happy with my little blog space, and I have to say I am genuinely fond of the ‘regulars’ who check in on me and post their comments.  I look forward to checking in on them and seeing what is going on in their worlds and leaving my comments for them.

Some might say it’s a funny way to have a friendship, or even that it is a cop-out on friendship, but I would disagree.  I didn’t start out writing a blog to make more friends; I’ve never been one of those who gathers friends easily.  In fact, I can count the number of GOOD friends I’ve had in my life on one hand.  And for me, that is more than enough.

That said, I am so very grateful for the connections I’ve made through my writing and blogging and I value each one of them as if they were a friend.  So, I feel I owe a great big thank you to everyone who has dropped by for a visit and stuck with me throughout the past year.  Your interest has contributed to that number — 2,781 hits — and I am truly honoured.

Will I ever be featured on Freshly Pressed?  That thought has been bothering me a bit lately.  And then, I sat down to think about it, which led to me checking on my all-time hits, which led to this little rumination.  I don’t care if I’m ever ‘Freshly Pressed’, I do care that people I care about have checked me out 2,781 times.

My day is made — thanks everyone!

View from the Side’s Weekend Theme — October 8th, 2010

The following is NOT a true story and has absolutely no foundation in truth.  My son Landon did some wild things as a little boy (and even as a bigger one) but, never, ever anything like this.  This is entirely a fabrication made up for this weekend’s challenge.

All rights reserved.  Copyright Kathy Larson 2010

String and Sticky Tape

by Kathy Larson

I sent him to his room for being bad.  All morning he had pestered after me.

“Can you take me to the park? I wanna play at the park.”

“Later,”  I’d said initially,  “I need to get the vacuuming done.”  Then I steered him out of my way to a pile of colouring books.

This scene was doggedly repeated about every five minutes.  “It’s later,” he’d say, “I want to go to the park.”

“I can’t right now.”  I’d just as doggedly reply.  “You need to be patient.  Go play with your cars.”  Eventually, he started to whine.  Then my reply became:  “If you keep that up, we won’t go at all.”   So, he became quiet.  So quiet I thought I’d better check on him.

There was a mural drawn all the way down the hall of kids playing at a park.  He’d used multi-media — wax crayons, pencil crayons and markers.  For a five-year-old it was pretty good.  Still, I thought I was going to have a fit, right then and  there.  To my credit I didn’t yell, I didn’t hit.  I simply took the red marker from his pudgy little hand and said very quietly, “Go to your room.  Now.”

The look on his face told me he wasn’t sorry.  Not one bit.

I stood back to take stock of his ‘artwork’.  There were trees, flowers and grass.  M-birds flew overhead and stick dogs chased after balls thrown by little stick boys.  There were swings, and teeter-totters and jungle-gyms.  He certainly knew what he wanted.  Despite myself I smiled.  I hated that I would have to wash it all off.  But our rented apartment wasn’t a Greek palace and a fresco would not be appreciated by our landlord.  I sighed and turned away, heading for the cupboard where I kept the pail and cleaning supplies.  As I ran warm water into the pail I started thinking about how the morning had gone and how I had disappointed this little boy, my son, who wanted nothing more than to get out of this boring little  box of rooms and find some space to move and run and breathe and live.

To hell with it, I thought, the art could stay there for a few days, it actually brightened the place up.  I’ll make him a surprise  — I’ll pack us a picnic lunch and we’ll go to the park and play and just be.  Out came the peanut butter and some apples, a couple of boxes of raisins and a thermos jug of Koolaid.  I grabbed my novel and a blanket and had everything organized by the front door.  Down the hallway I went to his bedroom.  Knock. Knock.  No answer.  He must be asleep, I thought as I silently turned the handle and gently pushed the door open.

I wasn’t prepared.  Not at all.  He was standing on the top of the dresser one foot poised on the sill of the open window.  There was something hanging from his back, it looked like cloth.  In my surprise I did not comprehend that he had cut up his top sheet and that this was what fluttered gently around him, stirred by the warm breeze coming in from the open window.

“What are you doing?” I asked in a small, still voice.  I was terrified.  I knew exactly what he was doing.  “Don’t move”  Again, the defiance in his eyes, but this time also an accompanying sadness.  “Please.”  I added.

I walked calmly across the room stepping on bits of string and sticky tape that stuck to the bottom of my sandals.  The tape made a soft ripping sound as it tore up from the carpet.  I took hold of his hand and turned him towards me.

His bottom lip trembled as I pulled him close.  “Those are some very fine wings you’ve made,” I said as I opened his arms wide to admire his handiwork.   He jumped forward into my arms his wings surrounding us both.  I breathed, then smiled.

“Come on,”  I said, ” Let’s go.”

A beautiful morning this morning

6:30 a.m. October 6th -- a sliver of moon over the fields of Bon Accord

When Heather and I stepped out this morning at 6 a.m. for our walk the air was still and mild, there was a ribbon of barely visible cloud just above the horizon and no sight of the moon.  High up the sky was clear and several of the constellations seemed near enough to touch.  It was, in a word, beautiful.

Later, as I approached home I could see a faint glowing sliver just barely visible above the line of trees in the distance.  It was the moon — the last tiny bit of it before the new moon.  I rushed in the house to get my camera, knowing my paltry skills probably couldn’t capture it, but I was going to try, anyway.  I’ve posted what I was able to get.  It really was lovely, wish I could have done it justice.

Wishing everyone a lovely, gorgeous autumn day — those of us in the northern hemisphere, that is.  The rest of you — enjoy spring!

Tuesday October 5th

Well, let’s see it’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve had time to blog.  And now I’m sitting here and I don’t really know what to say.  Because I have about 5 minutes in which to say anything.  Story of my life at the moment.

Union business has been overwhelming lately — lots of meetings, lots of late nights.  I have a plan though and hopefully I’ll stick to it.  If I can then maybe I can start having a life again.

My house is a disaster and I’ve got company coming for Thanksgiving this weekend.  I’ll get it cleaned up though, I’m really looking forward to cooking and company.  Need to sit down and make a to do list so that I can get my time organized. Think I’ve got Saturday all planned already — will make batter buns and pumpkin torte and get the dusting done.  If there’s time I’ll try to get out into the garden and start cleaning that catastrophe up.  While the weather’s good.

So far, October is shaping up beautifully.  Unlike September and August and half of July.  Sigh.  We really did not have much of a summer here at all.  And the sad thing about this fall is that the beautiful colours of the leaves only lasted a day or two.  Then rain and wind took it all away.  I do believe we are in for a rough, cold winter.

Well, that’s about it for now, got to go jump in the shower and get myself ready for work.

Good day all — hope you’re looking forward to a beautiful weekend wherever you are.