Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm Baaaaack..... Watch This Space

This past week has been rather overwhelming, and I haven't had an opportunity to open my blog. I'm not even sure anyone reads it anymore... In any case, we have been going through the accreditation process at work, so by the time I come home in the evenings, sitting at a computer is just about the last thing I want to do, right behind putting burning matches under my fingernails.

Typing? At home? For leisure...?

I don't think so.

In Canada, we have a three-day weekend coming up. Friday is Canada Day, and the Dude* and Duchess of Cambridge will be making their first official royal nine-day tour of Canada, starting on Thursday, June 30th. I would love to see them, but their tour includes almost all of Canada ~~  except British Columbia. And then they're off to the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood.  British Royalty used to have a certain je ne sais quoi ~~ a mystique ~~ but in the 21st Century they have come out from behind the palace walls onto the pages of People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight. Is that good or bad? I'm not sure. Perhaps their days are numbered, in any case.

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." ~~ William Shakespeare

Have a fabulous long weekend, everyone. Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends, and Happy Independence Day to my American friends.

I'll be back soon.  Watch this space.

*yes, Dude, his official title...  :-)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Well, I'll Be Darned...

Despite the bad publicity our city received lately with the Stanley Cup riots, Vancouver has once again been ranked by Economist Magazine as the number one city in the world in which to live. Apparently Vancouver scored 98 out of a maximum 100, as it has done for the past two years. Okay, that's just insane. Vancouver? Has the Economist Magazine ever been to Paris? Apparently, Paris came in at number 16.

The top U.S. city was Pittsburgh at number 29, with Los Angeles moving up to 44th place and New York coming in at 56th. London moved up one place to 53rd while Paris came in at number 16. The top Asian city was Osaka at number 12, tying Geneva, Switzerland and beating out the Japanese capital of Tokyo, which came in at 18. ~~ Economist Magazine

London at 53? New York at 56?

Well, I must admit that when I visited those two cities and then came back to Vancouver, I was impressed with what a beautiful city I live in, compared to London and New York. It's like a jewel in comparison. But as far as excitement and energy, New York has Vancouver beat ~~ hands down. London was a bit too large in my estimation, and the traffic is crazy. Paris is beautiful, but a bit claustrophobic and the streets are dirty. I bought a beautiful pair of soft buttery leather shoes in Paris, and the first thing I did when I wore them outdoors was to step in a lovely little pile of dog poop. It's everywhere in Paris.

But, yes, Vancouver is beautiful, it's cosmopolitan, we have great schools and universities, a fabulous cultural scene, and more.  We're fortunate to be surrounded by the ocean and mountains, giving us a setting that feels as if we're in a jewel box.  And if you come to visit us sometime, we promise not to riot.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Is It Live, Or Is It Memorex ... Part Two

Until this weekend, I had never heard of Rory McIlroy. I'm not a golf fan, and to me, watching golf is about as exciting as ... well ... watching the grass grow.  And then I heard about Rory McIlroy.  My daughter phoned me and said, "Google Rory McIlroy; who does he look just like?"  I burst out laughing.  He looks exactly like Phinnaeus.  Even the little hairs between his eyebrows are identical.  And his teeth.  And his cheeks.  And his nose.  And his curly hair. And his smile.  It's uncanny.  The only difference is, Rory McIlroy has brown eyes, and Phinnaeus's eyes are very blue.  In fact, I can even see Phinnaeus's mother in this picture.  The similarities are almost eerie.  How on earth does that happen?

Both Rory and Phinnaeus have a background from Northern Ireland.  I often tease Phinnaeus that he looks as if he should be wearing a kilt and throwing the hammer or doing the shot put in the Celtic Scottish/Irish Highland Games.  So possibly, way back when ... there is a connection somehow.

Phinnaeus is very much his own person.  He's smart and funnier than blazes.  The other day we went to his band concert, and as his mother, Marigold and I were walking out to the lobby during intermission, we came upon Phinnaeus chatting up a cute little redhead who looked a bit like Emma Watson from the "Harry Potter" movies.  He introduced us, and later he told us she was the girl who said he had "dreamy eyes".  Oh, goodness, wasn't it just last week I was taking him for walks around the neighbourhood ... in his stroller?  How on earth did he get dreamy eyes?  What did that happen?

Phinnaeus and Marigold's parents don't want me to post pictures of them on my blog, so this is the closest I can get ~~ a picture of Rory McIlroy.  Is it live or is it Memorex?  I don't know.  The more I look at it, I'm just not sure.

Never Trouble Trouble...

What do you see when you look at this glass? Is it half full, or is it half empty?  I prefer to see it as half full.  Seeing the glass as half full is a choice we can all make.  If we count our blessings, most of us will discover we have more blessings than we realize.  I feel very bad for people who don't understand this concept, who can only see the glass as half empty.  They judge their lives by what they don't have, rather than by what they do have.

My grandmother used to say, "Never trouble trouble until trouble troubles you."  That's very good advice.  It's all relative.  If people are going to be sad and angry over the small things in life, how are they going to cope with the really important things?  Anger is one of the most useless emotions, and I have seen anger ruin lives.

Anger is a natural part of the human psyche, a response to fight or flight, and it is necessary when one is being attacked by a sabre-tooth tiger or a Tyrannosaurus rex. Both humans and animals behave the same way when they're angry; they make loud sounds, attempt to look physically larger, bare their teeth, and stare. It's frightening for the people around them -- who often get angry in return, thereby escalating the already volatile situation. Anger begets anger. Folks become afraid of the anger because they never know when it is going to strike. My mother was angry and yelling all the time, and we were constantly on tenterhooks.  Because our mother was always angry, we thought she didn't love us, or even like us.  It changed who we were.

"People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing." ~~ Will Rogers

We all get angry occasionally; it's human nature. But there are varying degrees of anger, starting with mild annoyance, all the way to rage. Annoyance can be headed off at the pass before it becomes uncontrollable rage. Anger has an adverse effect not only on the victims, but on the person who is angry. Heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline increase. There is a theory that the "shot" of adrenaline becomes addictive, and the angry person needs more and more, much like any addict.  They become addicted to the "rush" of their anger.

"Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools." ~~ Albert Einstein

"Once we fully accept other people as they are without the slightest judgement or reservation – as all the enlightened beings accept us – then there is no basis for problems in our relations with others. Problems do not exist outside our mind, so when we stop seeing other people as problems they stop being problems. The person who is a problem to a non-accepting mind does not exist in the calm, clear space of patient acceptance.

Patient acceptance not only helps us, it also helps those with whom we are patient. Being accepted feels very different to being judged. When someone feels judged they automatically become tight and defensive, but when they feel accepted they can relax, and this allows their good qualities to come to the surface. Patience always solves our inner problems, but often it solves problems between people as well."
~~ Anger Management Techniques

People who are quick to anger don't understand how hurtful and painful their anger is, especially on the people who love them the most.  It's confusing and distressing for everyone, but anger is also so easy to control.  It's so easy...

"Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them." ~~ Lemony Snicket

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Unsung Heroes...

Man on the Street
Theodore Gericault

Despite all actions to the contrary in recent days, I believe in the goodness of people. I think we all possess empathy and compassion towards our fellow man.  Yesterday as I was walking along a street in Vancouver, I saw a homeless man who had collapsed on his knees.  His hair was stringy and unkempt, his clothes were dirty and torn, and he looked as if he had fallen to his lowest point in life; he was in the gutter.  A couple of men had rushed to his aid, one fellow holding his hand, talking to him soothingly, while the other called 911 Emergency.  The fellow holding the fallen man's hand was very large and rather intimidating, and I would imagine that in many parts of the world, unfortunately, he would be treated with a certain amount of suspicion.  And when he spoke, I had never heard such kindness.

"You will be okay, just try to breathe, and don't be frightened.  We're here with you and we're not going to leave you until the medics get here.  You're okay... you're okay..."

The fallen man was on his knees, and his jeans were exposing part of his buttocks.  Another man came out of his shop with a small piece of cloth and covered the exposed man's shame.  It struck me then what a kind, thoughtful gesture that was.  The two men stayed with the fallen man and held his hand until the ambulance arrived, and he was quickly taken away.

Every day there are unsung heroes in our midst. We never know who these good Samaritans are, or if we will one day need them ourselves. After witnessing the horror of the Vancouver riots, my faith in humanity was badly shaken, but it has once again been restored by these two kind men.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

To The Victors Belong The Spoils...

Last night a bunch of thugs descended on Vancouver and used the 7th game of the Stanley Cup playoffs as an excuse to trash our beautiful city.  These yobs were not Canucks fans, they are professional anarchists that travel from city to city and create havoc.  They attempted to do the same thing during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and they trashed Toronto during the G20 Global Economic summit last year, smashing windows and setting fire to police cars, just as they did in Vancouver last night. They're not Vancouver Canucks fans, and many of them are not from British Columbia.  They're organized, and they're armed with mace, knives and molotov cocktails.  And they were prepared to riot whether the Canucks won or lost.

Vancouver Canucks fans are passionate about their team, and they were understandably disappointed that the Stanley Cup was won by the Boston Bruins. The Canucks should have won ~~ or at least, they should not have lost. They were the best team in the league this year. But in the spirit of true sportsmanship, everyone knows the Bruins played a better game last night, and they won fair and square. No one disputes that, least of all the Canucks fans. So, to the folks out there who think this rioting was being done by disheartened Canucks fans, it was not. The true Canucks fans are on the streets of Vancouver today, cleaning up the mess left by these yahoos, who by now have probably crawled back under their rocks gone back to wherever they live.

These creeps have ruined the spirit of the Stanley Cup in Vancouver and they have given Vancouver a bad name. In my opinion, that is a bigger disappointment than the Canucks losing the Cup. The rioters' faces are plastered all over YouTube and in photographs, and the police will get them.

Congratulations to Boston ~~ you played a good game, and thanks to the Canucks for doing us proud.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Purely Scientific Study...

Raise your hands, any of you folks out there who often occasionally fall asleep in front of the TV in the evenings. I must confess, I doze off in front of the television quite regularly. When I was in my 20s, I had a very comfortable, butter yellow leather recliner, and I would put my feet up, turn on my favourite television program, and before I knew it ... ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz.....  Now, I often curl up in my big cozy chair, put on my favourite program ... and wake up two hours later. Sometimes I have the best sleep, when I can hear the voices gently droning in the background.

Most of us lead busy lives. We get up early, we go to work and put in a full day's work, often pushing through the detritus of stressful days. We are given two days at the end of each week in which to relax, but usually those days are taken up with the day-to-day business of taking care of chores. When do we really rest?

My purely scientific study is: how many people, after a busy 15 or 16 hour day, doze off on the chesterfield in the evenings? I have been doing this all my life. My bad? I don't know. You tell me. Enquiring minds want to know...

Monday, June 13, 2011

H*ll's Half Acre...

You see this field here? This is what is known as h*ll's half acre, and yesterday I spent two days hours there.  The day started out pleasantly enough.  My friend Leslie and I met at the RiverRock Train Station and drove out to Ladner for the Ladner Village Market.  We had lunch at a lovely little pub by the marina.  It was a gorgeous day, not too hot, filtered sunlight...  We stopped after lunch and had an ice cream cone and strolled through the market.  I bought a couple of books for Marigold about a little girl her age who lived in Marigold's home town in the 1800s.  I thought she might enjoy it.

The market was hot and crowded, so Leslie and I took a drive over to the other side of the marina, and sat in the cool shade and chatted for a while.  There is something so very peaceful about a marina, and the sound of the water lapping against the hulls.  When it was time for me to come home, Leslie drove me over to the Ladner bus exchange so I could catch the bus back to the RiverRock train station, and make my way back to Vancouver.  At the Ladner exchange, Leslie checked which bus I should catch, and at which Bay.  No. 601 at bay 5. Okay.

I got on the No. 601, and after about twenty minutes of watching farm land rolling by, I began to realize we were not heading towards Vancouver. Apparently there are two No. 601 buses and I had caught the wrong one. The passengers and the bus driver were very helpful. They suggested I get off the bus, cross over to the other side of the road, and catch the No. 601 going in the opposite direction. That bus, they said, would take me to my train destination. Okay, thanks. I got off the bus in a remote, unfamiliar part of the country, crossed the road and waited ... and waited ... and waited ... for almost 45 minutes, my eyes peeled on the horizon looking for a bus, any bus. I was hot, I was thirsty and I was lost ~~ I had no idea where I was. Finally a familiar-looking bus with the No. 601 pulled up at my stop. It was the same bus from which I had disembarked across the road 45 minutes earlier, with the same bus driver.

"Hi...! You should have just stayed on this bus."

"Are you freakin' kidding me?"

I still wasn't convinced this bus would actually get me back to civilization. For just an instant, I had a small frisson of fear that I had stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone, and I was doomed forever to ride the No. 601 throughout the never-ending bucolic countryside. I wasn't sure I was even in British Columbia anymore. It could have been anywhere.  But all's well that ends well. I'm home, back in the city, and I have lots of photos of horses and cows and barns...

And incidentally, the No. 601 bus that gets you back to the city is at Bay 2.  That No. 601 at Bay 5? It goes to h*ll's half acre ... and beyond. And believe me, you don't really want to know what's out there.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Invisible Scrambling Device...

The Key
Jackson Pollock

Last night there were 100,000 Vancouver Canucks hockey fans jammed into downtown Vancouver to watch the fifth game of the Stanley Cup finals.  I was not one of them. I prefer to watch the games from the sanctity of my tree house.

In the past few years I have discovered something about myself: I love my solitude. For five days a week I work in a busy, noisy, vibrant office, where from hour to hour there is always some sort of a crisis. There is no such thing as prioritizing work, or planning the day, because of the constant barrage of emergencies and calamities. Hustle, bustle ... noise. When I get home at the end of the day, and lock the door behind me, I am completely refreshed by the airiness and freshness of the trees outside my window. I don't feel at all as if I am in the middle of a city of 2 million people.

At one time in my life, I thought just about the most dreadful thing that could possibly happen to me was to be alone. Oh, goodness, no. How awful was that to be alone...? But now I cherish my "alone time", so that I can also cherish the time I am with family and friends. I love socializing and enjoying the company of other people, especially knowing I can eventually go home to the blissful sounds of silence.

Is this a bad thing? Have I become a recluse? I hope not.

At times I am rather confused by human interaction.  I believe that, during some conversations, there is an invisible scrambling device that exists somewhere between the "sender" and the "receiver".  A completely innocuous statement or question will be picked up by this invisible scrambler and translated into something entirely different before it reaches the receiver's ears.  A simple questions such as,

"Is it raining today, do I need my umbrella?" will travel through the scrambler and reach the receiver's ears as,

"Why on earth didn't you tell me it was going to rain, I don't have my umbrella with me!"

to which the receiver will respond,

"Are you blaming me because it's raining?  How is it my fault it's raining?  I have control over the weather?  How on earth do I have any control over the weather!"


Folks hear what the scrambler has construed.  I'm not very good at those sorts of exchanges, and I don't know how to de-escalate them.

"Oh, Gawd, that's not what I meant!"

Many times a day I see this same scenario occuring among people.

"Did you hear what he just said?  What did he mean by that?"

The invisible scrambler is the greatest cause of miscommunication and animosity between two otherwise very nice, reasonable folks.  So, increasingly I enjoy my own company.  At least when I say something, I understand what I mean.  I know I have no hidden agenda.

Today, "me, myself and I" are going to go for a long walk on the beach and enjoy our own company.  Have a wonderful weekend, folks.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rowan Tree...

I have lived in my tree house for 14 years, and during that time I have watched the trees outside my windows grow and change. They're home to nests of birds, as well as to families of squirrels and the occasional raccoon and skunk. The Japanese plum trees and the cherry trees provide a colourful show of pink blossoms in the spring, and then brilliant red and orange leaves in the fall.  Of all the trees, my favourite is the Rowan tree (Mountain Ash) which grows on the property next door, just outside my bedroom window. I love to watch it as it changes throughout the seasons. First the leaves develop, and then the white berries grow and they change to bright red in the late summer. In the fall, flocks of birds feast on the berries and then fly around drunk, crashing into each other.  It's a hoot.

This year I have been waiting for the leaves to appear on the Rowan tree and I wondered why they were taking so long, while everything else was already in full leaf.  And then, a couple of weeks ago, I realized the leaves will never appear on the tree again.  It has been choked to death by the ivy growing up its trunk.  The beautiful Mountain Ash ~~ by which I measured the seasons, watching its leaves and berries ~~ has gone forever.  Every time I look at it, I think of the Giant's garden in Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant"Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. "I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; "I hope there will be a change in the weather."

The folks who own that property have been hiring professional landscapers to look after the grounds and mow the lawn, so I expect one day to come home and find the tree gone.  I must admit, I don't think the landscapers have done a very good job and I will miss the Rowan tree and the crazy, drunken birds.  What a difference one tree can make.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dare To Bloom...

(click to magnify)

Isn't this a hoot?  I forgot to prune this clematis back in the fall, but it was determined to blossom anyway and it has produced more blooms this year than it ever has before.  I think that says something about determination, doesn't it?  Or perhaps it speaks volumes about the will to survive and thrive.  All living things have it ~~ survival of the fittest.  I water this clematis every day and admire its tenacity and beauty.  It's quite unique ~~ a topic of conversation amongst my neighbours.  I guess the moral of the story is, don't be afraid to be different.  Beauty can spring from anywhere.  Dare to bloom, even when the odds appear to be against it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Salt Air And Sea Breezes...

Today, June 4th, is the anniversary of my move to Vancouver. My first day here, I rode across Burrard Bridge towards Kitsilano Beach, and this view took my breath away. The place where I grew up on Vancouver Island was beautiful too, but not like this. Nothing like this.  That other June 4th was a gorgeous, late-spring day much like today.  I sat on the beach and watched the sailboats on English Bay, and felt the salty, sea breezes sweeping over me.  It was delicious.  And, yes,  this view still takes my breath away.

Today, on the anniversary of my move to Vancouver, I have been contemplating what achievements I have made during those years.  Well, not much, and quite a lot ... all at the same time.  I lead what might be called a quiet life.  I'm not wealthy and I have never made any great discoveries, nor solved any of the world's problems.  But I have a lot of friends, and I enjoy the respect of my peers.  As a single parent, I raised my daughter to be well-educated and successful in her career, and she is doing the same thing with her children.  Sometimes life throws us curve balls, but it's how we move forward that determines whether or not we're made of "the right stuff".  So, yes, I would consider myself successful.

Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and moving here was the right decision for me.  I have never regretted it.  Today I am going to putter in my terrace garden, and then later I will take a walk on the beach, watch the sailboats on English Bay, and feel the salty, sea breezes sweeping over me.  Does it get any better than that?

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Just Good Business...

Last week I bought a pair of shoes. Okay, nothing exciting about that. I tried them on and walked around the store; the shoes were comfortable. I bought them and took them home. I wore them around my house for an hour or so. So far so good. On Monday I wore them to work, and by the end of the day my feet were in such pain, I had to take a taxi home. What happened? I wish I knew. I like the shoes, but I can't wear them. On Tuesday I called the store ~~ Freedman's on Granville ~~ and explained my situation, and to my surprise they said they would be happy to exchange the shoes. My goodness, how did I get so lucky? Shoe stores never exchange shoes once they have been worn outside the store. But, it's just good business to treat a valued customer ... well ... like a valued customer, isn't it? So, I'll be trotting off to the store ~~ in my old shoes ~~ to exchange my cruel shoes for some new shoes. And what the heck, I might even buy that tote bag I was looking at on the weekend. You see?  It's just good business to treat customers well.

"Cruel Shoes"
Steve Martin
From the Steve Martin book Cruel Shoes

Anna knew she had to have some new shoes today, and Carlo had helped her try on every pair in the store. Carlo spoke wearily, "Well, that's every pair of shoes in the place."

"Oh, you must have one more pair..."

"No, not one more pair... Well, we have the cruel shoes, but no one would want..."

Anna interrupted, "Oh yes, let me see the cruel shoes!"

Carlo looked incredulous. "No, Anna, you don't understand, you see, the cruel shoes are..."

"Get them!"

Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, then returned with an ordinary shoe box. He opened the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But these were not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angled turn with separate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place.

Carlo spoke hesitantly, "... Now you see why... they're not fit for humans..."

"Put them on me."


"Put them on me!"

Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes.

The screams were incredible.

Anna crawled over to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.

"I like them."

She paid Carlo and crawled out of the store into the street.

Later that day, Carlo was overheard saying to a new customer, "Well, that's every shoe in the place. Unless, of course, you'd like to try the cruel shoes."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Please, Mr. Postman...

As of midnight tonight, the Canadian Postal workers are going on strike. Well, snail mail has almost become a thing of the past, anyway. I receive -- and pay -- all my bills on line, I don't care if I receive any flyers or junk mail, and most of my correspondence is done by e-mail or Facebook, so what does it matter? Well, my New Yorker is delivered by Canada Post, and the highlight of my week is opening my mail box and finding my crisp, clean New Yorker magazine.  It makes me happy.  I always read it in the same order ~~ first the cartoon caption contest on the back pages, then the art, movie and theatre critics, and so on...  I have been reading the New Yorker since I was a little girl, and I borrowed my father's subscriptions.  No matter what is going on in my life during the week, as long as can curl up with my New Yorker magazine, all is right with the world.

The New Yorker magazine has wonderful cartoons as well, and from the early days of James Thurber, to Roz Chast and George Booth (who was always my favourite), the cartoons are fun and topical.  This one made me laugh right out loud.  Of course, what else would Canada Geese be doing right now...?  The same thing that everyone else in Canada is doing ~~ watching hockey.

Please, Mr. Postman, whatever you decide to do, don't go on strike.  I can't be responsible for what I might do if I were to go through New Yorker magazine withdrawal.  Wailing and gnashing of teeth may be involved  ~~ once I catch you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's A Sacrilege...!

At the entrance to Vancouver's famous Stanley Park is a statue of Lord Stanley after whom the park is named. Frederick Arthur Stanley, was the 16th Earl of Derby and he served as the sixth Governor General of Canada from 1888 to 1893. His visit to western Canada in 1889 gave him a lasting appreciation of the region's great natural beauty as well as permitting him to meet the people of Canada's First Nations and many western ranchers and farmers. During his visit he dedicated Stanley Park, which is named after him. He also experienced the joys of fishing and avidly pursued the sport whenever his busy schedule allowed. As Governor General, Lord Stanley was the third holder of that office to whom Queen Victoria granted the power of granting pardons to offenders or remitting sentences and fines and the power of mitigating capital or any other sentence. ~~ Lord Stanley, biography

In 1892, Lord Stanley gave Canada a treasured national icon — the Stanley Cup. He originally donated the trophy as an award for Canada's top-ranking amateur hockey club. Then in 1926, the National Hockey League adopted the Stanley Cup as the championship prize in professional hockey. That this now famous cup bears Stanley's name is a fitting tribute to his encouragement and love of outdoor life and sport in Canada.

For the past 17 years the Stanley Cup has been in *gasp* America, where it was stolen from us won by the New York Rangers. In recent years it has been in Tampa, Anaheim, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

As Rocket Richard would have said, "Sacré bleu...!"

I'm not a huge hockey fan, baseball is my game. But I agree with Lord Stanley; it's time to bring the cup home. Let the games begin...