Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ten Things I’ll Make An Effort To Do In 2007

I’m not much on making resolutions at New Years. When it comes to resolving to do something, I more likely to get at it when I think about it rather than wait for the calendar to change.
I’ve been thinking about it, though, thanks to the current of comic punchlines. You’ve seen ‘em. The guy on the couch vowing to gain weight and drink beer because he knows they’re resolutions he’ll keep.
Here’s my list of things I’ll make an effort to do:

1.Get published. I’ll do my part. I’ll write something marketable and learn more about the query and proposal process, but the final decision is out of my hands. For than, I’ll petition the Universe.
2.Keep exercising. It’s okay to take a day off now and then. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to take the occasional break. But I’ll keep at it.
3. Spend more time outside in the winter. Fresh air and winter sun are good for the soul.
4. Listen to the Universe more. When I ignore Guidance I regret it.
5. Thank the Universe more. Gratitude is important.
6. Sell or otherwise dispose of my dad’s power wheelchair. It’s been in the garage since August. I’ll give it away. I have something that someone needs. I want that somebody to have it.
7. Spend more time out in the world. Writers don’t get out much and I’ve enjoyed that part of it immensely. Lately I’ve started to think that I need more human interaction. Never thought I’d see that day.
8. More bike rides in the summer. I went out at least three times a week for up to 12 miles at a time last summer and it was wonderful.
9. More self-hypnosis experiments. I gave myself a suggestion once concerning housecleaning. Next thing I knew I was down on my knees on the bathroom floor chasing dustbunnies out from under the baseboards with a toothpick.
10. Cultivate impatience. I have less patience these days and I’ve decided that it’s a message from the Universe. Up in No. 5 I vowed to listen to the Universe. This is a way to make good on that promise.

Happy 2007.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What Am I Doing Here? I Can’t Write!

Back when I worked at the weekly newspaper in Olds I’d go to the local RCMP detachment every Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. to get the police report. Then I’d drive 10 miles south to Didsbury and do the same thing at its RCMP detachment.
The drive was scenic with mountains to the west and prairie to the east. It was a nice break and a highlight of the day. I’d get back to the office, grab some coffee and junk food from a nearby convenience store, set myself at the typewriter, and then panic.
What am I doing here? I can’t write.
It was clearest to me at those moments that I was dreadfully unskilled, untalented, and well-nigh useless.
Despite having gotten through the previous week without being called out on my thundering lack of ability I was convinced that this Wednesday’s paper would be my downfall.
I’d stare at the unmolested piece of paper in my typewriter and consider my options. There weren’t many.
I think better with something in my mouth. I used to smoke and any smoker knows you can buy a lot of time taking out a cigarette, lighting it up, and then inhaling thoughtfully.
I’d quit several years earlier, but junk food can make you look thoughtful, too. I sipped and chewed. Police reports are easy. The paper stayed blank.
I think the act of eating relaxed me. After a few moments of heavy chewing I’d realize that I’d only need to do what I’d done last week. Put some words on the paper as they were told to me. If it worked then, it’ll work again.
After two years I realized that I’d been getting away with being a no-talent lout for quite some time. Perhaps I’d been wrong. This revelation was wonderful and freeing. At that moment I realized I was adequate. That has stayed with me.
I don’t concern myself being a great writer although being a paid one again would be nice. I am confident in my adequacy and no one can take that from me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Banana Pudding Pie

A comment a few posts ago (thanks Talia) contained the suggestion that I ought to post recipes for my crustless banana pudding pie and the attendant chocolate Schnapps sauce.
Tasty idea.
This recipe is suited for celiacs. I’m not a true celiac though I am wheat intolerant. I can get away with having a bit of wheat flour, but I chiefly use spelt and other lower gluten flours. I keep rice, tapioca, and potato flours around for when I feel the need to be gluten-free.
You gluten-eaters can substitute white flour in this recipe.
I’m not big on following recipes. I consider them something to be simultaneously referred to and ignored.
Although the following is my own invention I learned how to be gluten-free from the cookbooks by Bette Hagman like “More from the Gluten-Free Gourmet” and “The Gluten-free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy.”
Here goes.

Crustless Banana Pudding Pie

Three ripe bananas.
About 1/2 cup of sugar. The sweetness of the bananas lets you cut down on the sugar content.
Three large eggs.
One-quarter cup of rice flour or potato flour (or starch) or tapioca flour (or starch)
¼ tsp of vanilla
½ tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp guar gum (omit if using wheat flour)
Mixture may be thinned slightly with non-dairy milk substitute or non-dairy sour cream substitute if lactose intolerant.
Milk drinkers can use the real thing.
Blend in a food processor at a vigorous setting. Give it about three minutes so everything is properly mixed.
Pour in greased pie plate and bake at 350 for 40 –45 minutes. Depending on the temperament of your oven it could take longer to set.
Cool thoroughly and store in refrigerator. This gets better every day.

This is the base recipe. Stir in fruits and/or nuts like frozen raspberries and crushed pecans prior to pouring it in the pie plate.
This is good on its own and even better when topped with a sauce such as chocolate Schnapps sauce.
It’s very easy to make. Here’s the recipe. It’s my own invention.

About a cup of brown sugar.
A tbsp or so of water.
One 100g Lindt Extra Fine chocolate bar. Use the 85 per cent cocoa variety. Trust me.
Melt the sugar over medium heat and mix in the water. Break Lindt bar and add. Mix as it melts. If mixture is too thick add more water to desired consistency.
Allow mixture to simmer as you stir in a minimum of two tbsp of Schnapps. Use the real stuff for heaven’s sake. Don’t use that infernal abomination peppermint. I used apricot Schnapps. I had to choose between it and pear and the apricot won this time.
Simmer for about two more minutes stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat. Stir once more and pour into container.
Store in fridge.
If mixture hardens set container in a warm water bath until it gets runny. Stir vigorously and serve.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Look Closely, There Are Goats

I thought anything that mentions goats ought to have a pic of them. This is my very first attempt at putting a print photo on the blog.
Said goats are a bit hard to see. But they're there.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Meet Horricks

This is Horricks. It's a 100+ year old pump organ (it was made in 1901, I think) that my Grandma Maggie Thomson (nee Horricks) brought out from Ontario. She gave it to mom. I ended up with it.
It's not the best photo ever, but a) it's my very first ever blog photo, b) it's one of the first photos I ever took with my digital camera, and c) it's Horricks and I'm happy.

Seasonal Stuff

Best of the season to everyone and have an amazing 2007.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Promoting a Lie

Bush’s recent comments about wanting to increase the overall size of the US military reminded me of something that has annoyed me greatly. I’ll get to it shortly. But first, Canada doesn’t have a draft. Neither does the US right now. Every so often a bogus leaked report gets spammed around the Internet warning that the US draft will be reinstituted.
So far it’s been a hoax. But how does one increase the size of the military without a draft?
By getting more volunteers of course.
And that brings me to why I’m annoyed. Ever hear that ridiculous song-and-dance about Canada’s All-Volunteer Army? My country used to brag about it.
You see, back during WWII all our soldiers signed up. Yet we had conscription back then. That’s different from the draft because . . . um . . . because . . . “conscription” has 12 letters and “draft” only has five letters.
My dad was conscripted. He was 22 and single and exactly what Canada was looking for. So he went on his way to do his duty for his country. And when he got there he was given a piece of paper to sign. It said, “I volunteer.”
He did not sign.
Why?
“Because,” he said to me, “I didn’t volunteer.”
He was given three chances to buy into the Big Canadian Lie and three times he declined.
Dad told me that you weren’t punished for not signing, but neither were you promoted. Apparently one of the higher-ups suggested to him one day that he could go far in the army if he wanted. Well, that just wasn’t enough of a carrot.
So he led parades and became a driver for some higher-ranking fellow. He drove this fellow around BC selling Victory Bonds and got free beer out of the deal.
Not bad for refusing to lie.
I think it’s genetic. My Great-Grandfather Utas left Gammalsvenskby, a Swedish village in Ukraine, in 1886 over military duty.
Originally the settlers were told they wouldn’t have to serve in the Russian Army. When this changed he left. In fact, he was the first person from Gammalsvenskby to pack up his family and head for Canada because of it.
That’s not family lore. We had no clue why he left until we read Gammalsvenskby – the true story of the Swedish settlement in the Ukraine by J├Ârgen Hedman.
Good for him for taking a stand. We just don’t like to lie. We really don’t like to be lied to. And it’s extremely offensive when your own government does it and expects you to play along.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Solstice

Winter’s here and the day’s are about to get longer. We’re beginning our slow march to Litha and the longest day.
Mike and I celebrated the Winter Solstice last night and it was wonderful. We burned the seedpods of some wild tobacco he grew and let the smoke take our troubles to the sky.
The smoke was white and clean looking, if you can say that of smoke, and had a wonderful sweet fragrance that was set off beautifully by the clear cool night.
It’s the first time we’ve honoured Yule outdoors. In the past our observance has been restricted to food, but we felt a need to mark it like this.
Not that we ignored the food. I roasted a turkey in beer and made a crustless banana pudding pie with a chocolate Schnapps sauce. The pie is good. The sauce is better.
Winter Solstice means more than Christmas to me because it goes back forever and doesn’t have a great lot of commercialization piled on it. Like the smoke from last night’s tobacco, it just seems cleaner.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It’s just a bunch of words.

I haven’t written much about writing yet. In part because the blog is new, but mostly I don’t have much to say about it at present.
I write because it’s what I incarnated to do. I decided when I was five years old that I’d write a book. It’s just a bunch of words, I remember thinking. To my five-year-old mind that was reasonable. Of course a book is a bunch of words. But they’re put together in an interesting, compelling, enlightening or informative way.
I think that’s what’s been giving me problems over the past five years. I’ve haven’t got that interesting, compelling, and entertaining business down yet.
So I’ll plug away. I’ve got some ideas. I like to think my hypnosis and meditation scripts are fresh and interesting. They work, too, and that’s really important. No point writing self-help books if they don’t help anyone.
But there’s no point in doing them if they’re not published. So it’s back to figuring out what’s so all–fired special about my work because all I’ve got now is a bunch of words.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Envelope or the Letter?

So here it is Christmas and Christianity’s gotten itself so wrapped up in idol worship that the true message of Jesus is all but forgotten. Christian idolatry is everywhere, and it’s exactly what Jesus didn’t want. If you’ve read the Bible you’d know that. In fact, everyone who claims to be a Christian ought to read the Good Book and find out for themselves what it really says.
I read it cover-to-cover about 20 years ago. I’m neither a Sunday Christian nor a Christmas Christian. I was raised in the United Church but stopped going when I was nine because I couldn’t get any straight answers to my questions. No one could explain to me about “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” and I was convinced they were three different people.
Anyway I spent an hour each and every day reading the Bible. Took me about two months and I tell you what there’s some pretty tough sledding in the parts of NKJV. It’s worth it though, because I don’t have to depend on what somebody else swears the Bible says. It’s there or it ain’t. Interpretation be damned.
We ignore what Jesus said, unless it’s convenient for us to buy into it. Too many Christians say “I believe in Jesus” and leave it at that. No mention of what he did, said or stood for, just that they believe in him. You know what? That’s meaningless. It’s shallow and it’s pious and you’re just saying it because it makes you feel like you’re better than non-believers. Frankly, you sicken me.
A few years ago one of my Guides told me about religion in our world following the coming Earth and societal changes.
“It is the Source who will be honored and the Son, though honored, will no longer be idolized. This is not what He intended. He only showed the way by love. Tell me, what you would rather keep, the envelope or the words inside? He was the envelope. It was the letter inside that was important. The map to the God-Source, the directions.”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

How Will I Ever Learn?

Yeah, I screw up. My spelling’s adequate, but my typing is atrocious. And I have an unnatural love of commas.
Consequently, errors will show up in the blog. I don’t always catch ‘em. Hell, I don’t always see them.
So if you see a consistent error, or even a single occurrence of something particularly egregious, tell me.
I may not know any better. If no one tells me, then I’ll never learn.
Call me out when I make a mistake.

Fruitcake Is Good

I love fruitcake. There. I said it.
I don’t really get all the insult jokes about fruitcake. It’s tasty.
The best part about Christmas was the fruitcake my parents made. Green and red maraschino cherries, of course. Other fruits, too, and nuts. Walnuts for sure, but I don't recall what else. I never had a hand in the creation and it’s been years since I had one of theirs so I can’t say. I think it had rum or brandy in the dough. Maybe both. I don’t know. I just remember it was good.
Seems to me it was put together around December 1 and then tucked away. Weeks later it was unwrapped and we tucked in. I ate as much as I could handle, and that was quite a bit.
I still get to eat fruitcake every year. My husband is a natural baker and really enjoys seasonal baking like Linzer Torte and Lebkuchen. But a few years ago I asked for fruitcake and he found a wonderful recipe that only has to sit for a few days. One year he made two or three of them for me and I would have happily eaten two or three.
So go ahead. Make fun of them. Ignore the amount of work involved and pretend that you’re one of the crowd of fruitcake–haters. Maybe you actually believe all the bad press they get. Good for you. But keep your fruitcake jokes to yourself. I don’t want to hear them.
And if you really despise them that much, then do us both a favour. Give it to me. I promise I’ll give it a good home, albeit a temporary one.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Hitchhiking Ghost

I saw a ghost in broad daylight.
Mike and I were on our way to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan and decided to check out Highway 41 as we’d never been on it. It was a clear, blue sunshiny day in June with the near-endless visibility you get out on the prairies. A beautiful day for a drive and not much traffic on the road.
It was right around 2 p.m. We were minding our own business heading south with Mike behind the wheel. The road just ahead dipped a bit, then went up a slight hill with a curve. I don’t know if there was a stream in the dip or not, but there were guardrails.
I saw young man, maybe 20-30 years old, standing on the right-hand shoulder. I think he had a small suitcase beside him. He walked over to the centre line, picked something up off the pavement, and then walked back to the shoulder.
Okay, I thought, we’ve got a hitchhiker ahead. I turned to Mike and told him to watch out for the guy in case he tried to go to the centre line again.
But when I turned back the road was empty. A three or four ton truck came down the hill and sped by us on its way north.
No other traffic. No one had stopped to collect this young fellow. He was just gone.
Mike didn’t say anything. I was at a loss, too.
A ghost in broad daylight. Wonderful.
I haven’t had a chance to take that highway again, but I want to. What’s this guy’s story? Is he waiting for a ride that never showed? Was he killed by a vehicle while retrieving something from the middle of the road?
I’m not just curious. I’d like to help the poor fellow. Haven’t got the first clue how to help a ghost, but I’d like to at least talk to him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weird Stuff From The Great Beyond

When we got home Monday night from my dad’s funeral the DVD player was recording.
We hadn’t set it to record, but that didn’t seem to stop it.
I looked at it dully. It was about 7:30 and I was busy transporting some of his belongings to their temporary storage area in the living room.
Just before 8 p.m. the VCR popped on, as it was supposed to do, but the program was a repeat so I shut off the timer. As I did that the DVD shut off, too.
So the next morning I checked to see what we’d gotten. Nothing.
It recorded Battlestar Galactica on Sunday and whatever was in place of Heroes later on Monday. It’s worked normally since that evening.
It’s not the first weird thing. Last Thursday just after I got home from Barrhead the phone rang. I was near the portable phone in the bedroom so I picked it up. Even as I was saying hello I could hear Mike yelling from the kitchen warning that the phone I was on didn’t work.
He’d tried all day to get a dial tone. Nothing.
Deceased folks commonly use electricity to get our attention. There’s an explanation for it that I’m too lazy to look up right now so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I don’t know why dad-–I’m assuming he’s the culprit-- chose the phone and a DVD player. Maybe it’s because we’d be likely to notice and because messing with them isn’t all that disruptive. It gets his point across without being annoying. That’s a thoughtful spirit.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Great Reward

My dad finally went off to his Great Reward in the early hours of December 7. He'd been in the hospital about a week and spent his last day on Earth zonked on morphine and immobile. Although he slept most of the time, I could sense very strong electrical activity in his brain. No doubt in my mind he was well aware of what was happening around him.
His companion, Ethel, stayed at his side to the end. She said that three times prior to his death he lifted his right arm to the top of his head.
I think he was clearing away all the debris so that the doorway home wasn't obstructed. A new friend from the Absolute Write Water Cooler suggested that he was either waving good-bye or hello or both. Whatever the reason, it was interesting.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Just So You Know

To date only one person has left a comment on my blog. I'm grateful for said comment, but I wonder. Only one? Have I lost my touch? Years ago when I wrote a column for The Mountaineer I routinely heard about it.
Those who agreed said so and I was happy.
Those who disagreed were vehement about it and I was even happier.
A former local pastor and I had some wonderful discussions. We disagreed, but it was all on the logical level of discourse. That was fun.
Others spewed their bile in Letters to the Editor. I was a clearly wrong. And in one memorable letter I was told to get an education.
Sigh. Good, good days.

You don't need a Blogger account to leave a comment.
There's no need to leave your name either. You're welcome to spew your bile anonymously as you see fit.
You can even agree with me if you have to.
Just don't think you have to sign up for anything first.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

I love Christmas trees. Don’t get me wrong. The real ones smell great, they impart a wonderful woodsy feeling to a home, and they are lovely.
But why in the world do we have to go out and kill a living creature? This makes no sense whatsoever.
Imagine if Jesus were alive today to celebrate the alleged day of his birth with us. He was all about peace and love. We honour that with destruction. We kill something, dress it up, then toss it out in a snowbank. I think he’d be downright bemused over these antics.
Harvesting trees for lumber is one thing. It serves a legitimate purpose. But the annual Christmas slaughter is an entirely different matter.
If we must tart up an evergreen, can we at least do it to a live one? It’ll suffer the indignity for a few weeks, maybe take a bit of heckling from its forest friends, but at least we wouldn’t have to kill anything for Christ’s sake.

Friday, December 1, 2006

We Only Have Poor At Christmas

‘Tis the Season to . . . overindulge in food and drink, spend a lot of money you don’t have on people you may not even like, and pretend you give a damn about others.
For three weeks and a bit millions of Christians go the whole hog in making an effort to be Christian. Between eating and drinking and shopping and trying not to get caught or kill someone while driving home soused they give a bit to the poor. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s wonderful. A family gets a turkey. A kid gets a present. The poor, or at least some of them, have some semblance of normalcy for a day.
But where are these good, giving people the other 11 months of the year? Poor, hungry needy people are here 12 months of the year. By January, the poor are largely forgotten. If we happen to see one, then we cross the street or avert our eyes.
It’s their own damn fault they’re poor, we tell ourselves. Maybe they’re working off some karma, or simply decided to spend a lifetime outside the main flow of society.
Maybe that’s exactly what these people chose. Good for them. I believe we learn way more in a life of adversity than we do jetting around the world being famous for being famous. But that’s not the issue.
When a soul chooses a life of poverty or homelessness or the like, it is also giving the rest of us a chance to grow. We are being given a glorious opportunity to reach out to another person and recognize that when you help someone you help yourself.
You can help in many ways and not all of them involve money or materials. Even if you can’t afford to give anything at least acknowledge that the poor person shivering on the street is a person. Send a warm thought or some white light his or her way, and a thank you for the lesson that’s being offered.