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Halloween 2020

Pictured here is Sam. Sam Boney. He’s looking a little perplexed because he isn’t really sure how to carve his pumpkin this year. Should he go for his usual scary face? Or maybe something a little bit more friendly? I mean, 2020 has been scary enough.

A lot of people are not really sure how to handle Halloween this year, but others are trying to be creative. At our house, we’ve already built a candy chute for the kids. A little PVC piping and some orange tape and lights to wrap around it, and voila! They just have to stand at the bottom of the steps, open their bags or buckets and we’ll send their candy down the chute. Perfect.

It has also been suggested that you can use tongs to hand candy out, or put the candy in individual bags. I can understand, though, how some people might not be comfortable handing out candy this Halloween.

We get an average of about 70 kids at our house every year. I really enjoy the tiniest trick-or-treaters the most. Sometimes you answer the door and they just stand there and stare at you with no idea what is going on. Some see the open door and start to walk right in. Others try to say “trick or treat” with little or no success. One time I opened the door to a little girl who simply said “Candy?” And their little costumes are the most adorable just because THEY are.

Then there are the “kids” who are a little past their expiry date. I mean, once your voice changes and you’re taller than me, maybe it’s time to move on. I actually had that attitude for years until a friend said “At least they’re out trick or treating instead of somewhere else causing trouble!” That gave me a new perspective. I now welcome kids of all sizes.

Sam and I are wondering how many there will be this year. I mean, we’re lucky in that Halloween isn’t outright cancelled, as it is in Los Angeles County, for instance. No gatherings, no haunted houses to visit. Now THAT would make Halloween night pretty eerie to me. You’re allowed to watch a scary movie at a drive thru, or decorate your yard, but no trick-or-treating whatsoever.

In BC, with some new protocols in place, we’ve managed to hold a provincial election without too many hiccups. So even if it looks a little bit different this year, I think those of us who want to can manage Halloween one way or another. At least I hope so.

Oh, and Sam Boney finally settled on a face for his pumpkin this year. It will be a happy face.

Grey skies are going to clear up
Put on a happy face!
Brush off the clouds and cheer up 
Put on a happy face!
Spread sunshine all over the place
And put on a happy face!
~ From Bye Bye Birdie, Lyrics by Lee Adams, Music by Charles Strouse

To all the kids and parents heading out there this Saturday, have a safe and Happy Halloween!

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Canada Day – A Different Way

Last week, I asked a few of my students what their plans were for Canada Day. Usually, that’s just a casual question you ask when a holiday is on the horizon. This year, however, the responses were decidedly different.

They would stop for a second, stare off somewhere, maybe chuckle, and shrug their shoulders.

Some had definite plans. “We’re going fishing,” one said. That seems safe enough. “Off to our cabin for a couple of days,” said another.

But most had no plans at all. No picnics or barbeques, no street parties, no fireworks or live shows to watch. Not even the usual Canada Day show from a stage set up somewhere in Ottawa, with all the Canadian stars and politicians in attendance.

Oh, there were other shows. Some live streaming and some on TV. But we’re getting used to those new formats now, aren’t we? They’re either live from their living rooms or some kind of “virtual” celebration. Or ninety-three people singing Oh Canada on Zoom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We’ve come up with a lot of wonderfully creative ways to celebrate special occasions lately, from solitary graduations to drive-by birthdays and weddings, and holiday car or bicycle parades. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to celebrate, and we Canadians love to do that. Especially on Canada’s birthday.

Normally, our family would either go down to the lawns of the legislature and be a part of the living flag, or maybe over to Fort Rodd Hill to celebrate our nation’s birthday there. At night, from our back deck, we always hear the fireworks going off. And the inevitable screech of seagulls flying above as they escape Armageddon.

My husband and I decided that this Canada Day it was time to see and be with our friends. In person. We have a great group of four couples who golf together, spend Christmases and birthdays together, and have done so for many years. It’s very unusual for us to go any longer than a month or two without seeing each other in person, but the last time we had been together as a group was last Christmas. That’s more than six months.

So we decided to host a back yard get together at our home on the afternoon of Canada Day, where everyone would bring their own appetizers and beverages, and we’d all sit an appropriate distance apart and just spend some time together. And it was great. It was wonderful to laugh together again, to share our COVID stories and experiences, to catch up on each other’s news and views. It lasted about 3 hours and it was perfect.

Three years ago, on Canada’s 150th birthday, I wrote a blog about having recently returned from Europe on our first big vacation there. I remember, very vividly, seeing Labrador through the plane’s window on the flight back, marveling at how massive Canada is and how little I’ve seen of it. It was a wonderful European vacation, but it was an especially warm feeling to come back home.

But this year, on Canada’s 153rd birthday, to be honest, I was really just happy to be here. Weren’t you?

We Canadians might have our disagreements. Okay, who am I kidding? We have lots of disagreements. We are certainly not perfect and still have a lot to work out for ourselves. But in spite of our differences, I think most of us would agree that we are darn lucky to live in this great country. And that has become so much more evident in the last few months as we’ve negotiated this strange new and frightening pandemic.

One very important reason for our luck is that we’ve had some well educated and intelligent people leading us through it all. And our humanity has been brought to the surface; instead of fighting each other, we’ve come together to help each other. We’ve learned to follow the protocols, listened to those who know what they’re talking about, and put up with new, uncomfortable rules. It’s been rough on a lot of us, and we’ve still got a long way to go.

But, Oh, Canada! I’ve never been prouder to stand on guard for thee.

Out For A Walk

Steveston Fishermen's WharfImage via Wikipedia

One day when I was about 12 years old, I was about to be sent home from school because I had come down with the flu.  The nurse at the school tried to call my mother at home, but there was no answer.

I knew where she was.  She was out walking.  I didn’t realize at the time that the reason my mother had taken up walking was because of her cancer diagnosis;  she was out almost every day walking anywhere from two to four miles.  It was the only time I ever saw her wear pants and running shoes.  When I was five years old, my Dad’s car kicked the bucket, and since we couldn’t afford another one, we went without a car for about five years.  My Dad was a bus driver, so we either walked or took the bus anywhere and everywhere for those years.  The three of us walked to the neighbourhood grocery story every Friday evening and packed home the week’s groceries.  It was just our routine.  As a kid, Dad loved walking or hiking everywhere either alone or with a friend, and often walked up the famous Grouse Grind on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, long before it became cool to do that!  As he got older, he never stopped walking, and would often choose to walk rather than take the car. 

Many years later I was out on my usual walk when I suddenly remembered my mother’s walks, and realized that we had both chosen the same activity as a health benefit.  At first, walking was something I did occasionally, especially when I was in Richmond visiting my family.  The boardwalk by the Fraser River in Steveston is a lovely walk, but my little Fernwood neighbourhood here in Victoria is also a pleasant route. These days, I try to walk four times a week and as the weather improves sometimes I walk pretty much every day.  In the last few months I’ve focused on it even more, especially after reading a few stories on the benefits of walking for at least half-an-hour at a time.  It keeps your weight in check, of course, but I’ve always thought of it as the most obvious form of exercise a human being can choose.  We were made to walk.

My sister runs.  I hate running.  It always feels like my innards are being pounded into mush, never mind the crunching sound my knees and hips make when I have to dash across a street to avoid a car, for instance.  I gloated to my sister once when I found out that at a certain distance, running and walking burn the same amount of calories.  Take THAT!  Yeah!  She just looked at me with her little smile, knowing full well that she’s in better shape than I am, regardless of any of my proclamations.  Good thing she’s OLDER so I can at least rub that in.  I win 🙂

A couple of months ago I found an About.com article all about walking.  I found out that your weight x distance = the energy consumed by walking, so I immediately opened Google Earth and used the distance tool to calculate how far my usual walks were taking me and how many calories I was burning.  Hmmmm.  Okay, so not that great.  I fiddled around a bit and adjusted a few blocks this way and that way and came to a new route that would burn more calories.  The other caloric element that wasn’t taken into consideration was the fact that I live on a hill.  No matter which way I go, I eventually have to go uphill to get home again.  That boosts the caloric numbers too, so I decided to find the street with the steepest grade, just to make it even better. The first time I attempted that street, I was wheezing by the time I had only gotten a quarter of the way up.  Holy crap.  Half way up and my legs were aching and my heart pounding out of my chest.  When I reached the top, outside of being completely winded, I had a hot flash.  Sheesh.  But I did it.  And I’ve incorporated that street into most of my daily walks since.  It’s gotten somewhat easier, but it still kills me.

Aside from gardening and golfing, walking is what keeps me sane and centred.  There is the physical benefit, to be sure, but the emotional and mental benefits are just as important to me, if not more so.  Some days when it’s wet and cold out there, it’s hard to get motivated, but once I am out the door, I immediately feel better.  Even though I go at a pretty good clip, I pay attention to trees and birds and gardens and to the people I often see on a regular basis.  I always say hello or good morning and serve up my best smile.  By the time I get home, I’m stress-free and at peace with the world.

When my cat became ill and started to lose his kidney function a few months back, I found a vet that was within walking distance so I could incorporate the visits to pick up his specialized food and medication.  And these days, instead of hopping in the car to go to the bank or to the grocery store, I stick on a backpack and walk it instead.  Fortunately we have a mall fairly close to us that has pretty much everything we need.  With some encouragement, I occasionally convince my husband to walk with me there and back, but for the most part I walk alone and enjoy every moment.

It has been on my mind in the last while that I should one day take you on a small, pictorial tour of my walk, just to show you some of the interesting sights I have come across.   If I can ever remember to take my camera with me, I will do just that.  Maybe you’d enjoy taking a walk with me :-).

IJ

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Tech-tarded – A New Definition

Person with PDA handheld device.Image via Wikipedia

In the province where I live, British Columbia, a new law came into effect on January 1st, banning drivers from using hand-held devices (ie cellphones) while driving.  I think it’s a good law, especially after an incident I witnessed not more than a month ago driving back from Richmond to the ferries as I do monthly.

It was on Steveston Highway near the Ironwood Mall, for anyone who knows the area.  That place is a bottleneck at certain times of the day as people rush to get on Highway 99 and out of town.  Rush hour isn’t an hour-long anymore and hasn’t been for years!  Why don’t we find another name for it??

Anyway, I was sitting patiently in the gridlock knowing full well that it was going to take some time to get out of there, when I noticed a young woman with two children in the back seat of her car, trying to get out of the mall parking lot.  I was quite ready to let her in, but she didn’t even look at me.  She started butting her car into the lane of cars I was in, her eyes not even glancing my way, her cellphone glued to her ear.  Well, okay, I thought, and waited so she could move in.  But that wasn’t enough for her, she actually wanted to get into the next lane beside mine, which was moving a lot faster and would been a blind move for her even without a cellphone.  As she continued to slowly butt through my lane, she did not look at me once, so concentrated on her cellphone conversation.  I started to flail my arms, motioning for her to hang up her phone.  This was no situation to be having a cellphone conversation in.  Her kids saw me, but she didn’t look.  I think one of her kids said something to her, but she still didn’t look.

Eventually, she made it into the lane beside mine and brazenly put the pedal to the floor, racing away into whatever other disaster awaited her next.  I couldn’t believe her outrageous behaviour, especially with little kids in the car.  And that’s not the first time I’ve seen stupid behaviour from someone driving with a cellphone stuck to their ear.

Don’t get me wrong, I myself have driven like that before on more than one occasion.  That’s why I think I can say with confidence that it is definitely a distraction.  But beyond the distraction of a conversation, you are driving with one hand, most likely your right hand, meaning that if you want to signal a lane change you actually have to take your hand off the wheel to reach your signal.  Most cellphones are too tiny and awkward to hold between your ear and your shoulder, so that’s out of the question.  And your blind spot on the left side becomes even more blind because of your cellphone and your hand blocking your view even more.

Which is why it’s a stupid argument to say that it’s all about the conversation you’re having on your phone, and that it  is the same as having a conversation with someone in your car, so no big deal.  That’s only half the distraction!  I tuned into a talk show the other day and heard whiner after whiner complain that they’ve “never had an accident” while talking on their phones, so why should they be “punished”?  Okay, buddy, maybe it isn’t YOU having all of the accidents, but clearly we have to do something about all of the people who are!  What is the big deal in getting a hands-free Bluetooth gadget if you MUST be on the phone in your vehicle every minute you’re in it?  Oh, right, Bluetooth isn’t very good, and blah, blah, blah.

I used my hands-free device just yesterday, calling my husband back because I had missed his call.  I drove a particularly narrow stretch of road as I was talking to him, but I had both hands on the wheel and could easily turn on the signal and do a shoulder check before I changed lanes.

The ones who are going to benefit most from this law are kids of driving age, because they will be less likely to get into an accident, potentially killing someone and even themselves.  They are younger, they can adapt to things more easily than the rest of us, so they’ll get over it.  But there’s one significant difference;  kids text MORE than they talk.  And the hands-free device doesn’t solve that issue.  So kiddies, you are going to have to give up texting while you’re driving a car.  Sorry.  Can it wait until you’re parked somewhere, or until you have reached your destination?  It’ll have to.

Today I read an article on the CBC News website about CES, the Consumer Electronics Show down in Vegas.  Canadians are complaining because they can’t get all of these lovely gadgets or the content up here in Canada because we have too many Canadian content restrictions.  I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing!  We are so tech-obsessed that we have to watch TV on our cellphones?  Or in our cars?  We are so dumb that we need a GPS unit to tell us where we are at all times?  How about reading a road sign?  How about checking a map and mapping a route before you leave?

My daughter introduced me to the term “tech-tarded”, which is SUPPOSED to mean someone who can’t or doesn’t handle all of this gadgetry very well.  I’m going to use it in another way.  Tech-tarded will be my new definition for someone who cannot live without being wired to something at all times.  Sure, technology is amazing and wonderful and gives us access to lots of great things.  But we’re in danger of allowing it to make us more stupid.

So put the cellphone down, don’t be a TECH-TARD!

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