Another Trip East

The hubby and I decided to take another trip east this year. My mother-in-law turned ninety-four in March and we couldn’t make that celebration so we went on our own this month. Just a quick visit because we’ll be back in August for a family wedding. As usual the hubby tracks the weather and studies the future forecast so we can avoid any bad weather in our path. We Canadians are fixated on the weather and my family is no different. This time we wanted to leave on a Monday but put off leaving for a day due to snow predicted in Quebec and New Brunswick. Ha! we can avoid that by travelling through the States. The weather prediction was just fine. So we went to CAA, got a trip-tik and set off on our journey. Travelling on the 401, we experienced rain but no freezing temperatures. Then we crossed the Thousand Islands Bridge to the USA. What is it about crossing the border that makes us feel guilty? We aren’t criminals and have never done anything illegal but we all get a little stressed talking to the scary border guards. Maybe it’s because we have heard all the stories from others about their awkward experiences. We’ve crossed the border many times, been stopped for an inspection once and never had anything but pleasant contact with the officials. This stop was no exception.

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We were soon on our way, driving through the gently rolling hills of upstate New York and the lower Adirondack Mountain Range. There are some huge farms that are obviously quite successful. Beautifully kept yards and fields, barns that look to be up to date. The animals aren’t out in the fields yet but with the warmer weather it won’t be long before we’re seeing lambs, calves, and foals skipping through the grass.

Of course we had to have lunch and, while travelling, we like to stop at the quick stop areas just off the highway. Now years ago, we could count on the prices in the States being much lower. Enough so that with the dollar exchange, prices were still lower. How times have changed. A stop at McDonalds showed prices were exactly the same as in Ontario which meant, with the exchange rate, we actually were spending more. Our hotel rate was also considerably higher with the exchange. We didn’t do any other shopping as we were just passing through and wouldn’t be out of Canada long enough to make any purchases, so I can’t tell you anything about those prices.

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As I said, we travelled through the Northern States and the weather was perfect there. Temperatures hit 18 degrees, it was sunny and pleasant. We could see the Adirondacks in the distance, fog hanging low and pretty. As we drove up the mountain, the fog grew thicker, we could only see from fifty to a hundred feet in front of the car and I could feel the temperature dropping. and then the snow started. Noooo! Winter is over, the local weather was supposed to be great, not snowy. We drove on but the snow got heavier and we ended up stopping about two hours earlier than usual. That really threw off our itinerary but we have to remember we are retired and not on a schedule anymore.

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We spent the night in the small town of Waterville, Maine. Had a great supper at a local restaurant that was incredibly busy in spite of the weather. A wonderful testament to the food! Slept well and set out again at 8 am after a hearty breakfast. The weather cleared and warmed up a bit, the roads were clear and we crossed back to Canada at 11 am. Border guards on our side are lovely people, mild mannered and friendly. New Brunswick still had a lot of snow on the ground and it will be interesting to see how much is left on our return next week.Clear driving for the rest of our journey. Just into Nova Scotia, we had to stop for gas. In the distance was a familiar PetroCanada sign so we pulled off once we got to that exit. Uh oh. Turns out that station only carried diesel for the big trucks but there was a great little diner attached, with huge portions of delicious food and a waitress who was really good at her job and could sell just about anything.

My sister-in-law and her husband have a home just outside of Antigonish where we are always welcome to stop. We all call it the “Tea & Pee” place and we get to have a quick visit and stretch our legs. From there it’s only a two hour drive to Sydney River and the old homestead. We have visits with a multitude of relatives and friends and even get some shopping done. It’s a great way to spend a relaxing few days. Because my mother-in-law is 94 we tend to stick close by, she loves to play cards, watch the “judge” shows and chat so those are the things we do. The main card game played in Sydney is called Tarabish. The game is of Mideast origin and was brought here by Lebanese immigrants, around 1920 when many came for the work in the nearby steel mill and coal mines and the needs that sprang from them.

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Sometimes when Mom takes an afternoon sleep, the hubby and I will take a little drive or do a bit of shopping. Yesterday I just went out on the deck and watched the birds. Honestly the crows are the biggest and smartest in Canada. I spotted cedar waxwings, bluejays, common sparrows, and of course seagulls. There are also many eagles here though I didn’t spot any this week. The official bird of Nova Scotia is the osprey. Leaving the younger birds behind in the south, the older birds return to Nova Scotia in spring to mate. They’ll return to the same nests of bundled sticks and twigs that they used the year before. We spotted several of these, as yet uninhabited, atop telephone poles. Maybe the birds will start to return before we go home, otherwise we’ll have to wait until we come back in August.

As usual I save some personal shopping for my time in Cape Breton. There is a kitchen wares store nearby that isn’t available to me in Ontario so each trip I make a visit there to see what’s new and on sale. I lucked out this year and bought new sets of dishes at a terrific sale price. I was also really pleased to find chocolate from a company started in Antigonish by a refugee family. Peace by Chocolate is as good as advertised, better actually.

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On Thursday we set off on our journey home. It was sunny, still cool but a nice day for travel. Grass hasn’t come in yet so the disappearance of snow and ice left the winter thatch, thick and brown at the roadside. But most disappointing is the trash littering the area. It seems that litterbugs abound in the Maritimes. For heaven’s sake people, take pride in your province and don’t throw your trash out your car windows. It’s so disheartening to see all the garbage left behind by careless, unthinking people. The rest of our trip was uneventful, and clean. It did start raining in New Brunswick and through Quebec, but we missed the big deluge. Even so, we could see how high the rivers were and I hope the people living near lakes and rivers are careful and pay attention to their government warnings and stay safe.

So farewell Maritimes. See you in August when we return for a family wedding.

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International Women’s Day

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Friday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. The history of this day goes back to the early 1900’s with women from around the world marching and striking for peace, food and their right to vote. Now the day is still celebrated world wide, some countries have a national holiday, some totally ignore it and some just pay lip service. Here in Canada the day is acknowledged and women may march for a cause and some introduce a project that is close to their hearts like the shoebox project.

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I describe myself as a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, and feminist. I firmly believe that women are equal in all ways. We are not superior to others but equal. I was fortunate to be raised in a female household. Dad died when I was nine and my mother remarried a couple of years later to a man who was in the navy so he was gone six or more months of the year. So myself, two sisters, my nana and my mum were all together in one house. My mother was totally female, petite, always in full make up and well dressed. But she could handle a hammer or screwdriver and built our TV stand herself and then built and replaced our wooden garage doors. We were taught we could do anything and encouraged to try many projects. I was athletic, excelled in English and history and did well in some sciences. The world was just waiting for me. I truly believe I was very fortunate to have the upbringing I did. We don’t need to tear down other women to achieve our goals but we do need to hold out a helping hand, ready and willing to lead the way. Because our goal is equality, we shouldn’t try to tear down men either just to achieve our goal of equality. Men and women must learn to treat each other with respect, each recognizing the other’s unique talents.

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This year, in Canada, our theme for International Women’s Day is Innovate for Change. There is a strong emphasis on STEM. Girls are being encouraged to study science, technology, engineering, and math. The female brain is equally able to learn these subjects and,  if their interest is there, study them and do well. Previously, women were discouraged from these studies, now they really are being encouraged. Women are being empowered. That’s not a catchphrase, it’s a truth. Our daughters, nieces, sisters are achieving empowerment when they are able to achieve a place in the decision making process, the ability to access opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions. To achieve this we must celebrate the contributions of women and renew our efforts in achieving gender equality.

In high school, I was told I could become a nurse, teacher, secretary or housewife. I chose nursing and had a pretty good career. I mentored many new nurses, I stood up to the bullying system on behalf of myself and others, I taught a bit and I helped make my workplace, and others, safer. Secretly I wanted to study journalism and write, but for whatever reason I just didn’t have the drive to do it when I was that young. I believed nursing was my path and I was damn good at it. But I would have been a fantastic journalist. So to any and all who are reading this, encourage those girls and women to do the work that they know they can. Do the work they really want to do. Be FANTASTIC!!

Why Does It Take Me So Long?

Here I am, finally writing on my blog again. I always say I’m going to do this routinely but never seem to accomplish my writing goals. I know It’s a matter of discipline and routine, neither of which I am not good at. Last year I made it a resolution. Broke that one quickly. This year I didn’t  make a resolution which was just as well because I would have broken that one too. Why can’t I figure out a way to just write? Is it that my life and experiences just aren’t very interesting? Nonsense! Everyone has a story! I’m just a lazy writer and have to get to it!

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Because I wasn’t elected in the municipal election, I had to spend some time afterward cleaning out my office and saying goodbye. The experience wasn’t as traumatic as I thought it might be although I do miss the staff I worked with and I’ll pop in every so often to say “hi”.  After the office clean out, the hubby and I took a trip to visit his mother in Cape Breton. She’ll be ninety-four soon and is still mostly independent and is just a joy to visit. We’ll likely go back in the spring too, after all we know we won’t have her forever and want to visit as often as possible.

When we got back in mid-November, the Christmas rush was upon us. I had done some shopping, but had to finish and wrap everything, plan a gathering for Boxing Day and before I knew it we were into a new year! The hubby and I joined a service club, since I now had more time, and that has been a bit of a whirlwind too. I’m not one to sit back and let others do the work, so I got involved in gathering and organizing all the paperwork so the club can move forward when they are ready for new projects. I am enjoying this time to do some valued work and to help contribute to the charities that support those less fortunate in my community.

And so those are my pile of excuses for taking so long to get back to writing, something I really do enjoy. I’ve also gone back to writing in a different format and some day maybe I’ll publish a novel or a short story. Such a great way to express oneself.

Rights and Responsibilities

Remembrance Day has just passed; the day to remember why so many young men and women were willing to give their lives to defend our allies, to preserve our way of life, and to preserve our democracy. I really wish our citizens would think about these things from September on, especially during those years when municipal elections take place. So here is my rant about the latest city election. Please know this isn’t about me, it’s about an alarming trend across Canada.

First let’s look at what your municipal government (council) does. It provides local services, facilities, safety, infrastructure, libraries, parks, community water systems, local roadways and parking. Really this list just touches on the basics, there is much more done and your councillors are the ones who are easiest to reach when you need help with city issues. Council makes the final decisions on how your taxes will be used.

So my question is, why are municipal elections virtually ignored by the vast majority of the people eligible to vote in a city?  My city had a whopping 24.26 percent voter turnout. One quarter of the residents have decided who will lead, or setback, the city’s progress. Do folks not care how their tax dollars are spent or how their city is represented? Councillors are the politician’s who are closest to the populace. They make the everyday decisions about whether or not your neighbourhood park gets new, safe playground equipment, if the city bandshell is safe for entertainers, if a pier is insured so you can fish.

I’ve heard so many excuses for not voting, most are just ridiculous. Here are a few: -politicians are all a bunch of crooks. No we aren’t. I don’t lie, cheat or steal and neither do the people I worked with on council.                                                                                          -I thought you’d win anyway. Really? It’s harder to win without the votes.                       -The poll was too far from my house – It’s guaranteed that any candidate or a member of their team, would have driven you to the poll and back home again. We want people to vote!

All that said, what can we do to encourage residents to get out and vote? That is the big question. Some folks complain that they didn’t hear from or see a certain candidate. To that I say that it’s difficult to knock on every door. We did actually have two candidates who did just that and I have to tell you, both were very good candidates and neither got elected. There goes that excuse. Candidates are very accessible, there are info cards, lawn signs, lapel buttons, names, addresses and phone numbers are posted on the city website or available by calling the clerks’ office. We don’t all have access to your phone numbers unless a list with those numbers is made available through a political party or a realtor list.

To help voters, our city had six advance polls, in apartments of over one hundred eligible voters, special polls were held in the building lobbies. Nursing homes and seniors’ residences had special polls. On election day the polling stations were open for ten hours. Are there other things the city can do?

All these efforts are for nothing though, if people don’t go out and vote. So my conclusion is this. The residents of a city have to take some responsibility too. Take an interest in what your community has to offer. Our city offers the opportunity for folks to participate in consultations on just about all major projects and the budget. It’s important to get involved! I am a firm believer that it boils down to education. Formal or informal, it doesn’t matter. I’d like to see school groups tour city hall, what better way for those grade five or six students to get an awareness of civics. Continue that with the grade ten students forced to study civics for a half a credit. Encourage councillors and staff to visit schools to tell the teens about the importance of municipal government. They just might go home and have that discussion with their parents. Take the time to email your minister of education to tell the government to expand civics courses in high school.  Encourage your current or past councillors  to get out to service clubs, colleges, and universities, special interest groups, and new Canadians and talk about the importance of voting. I don’t think these things have to wait for an election year, we don’t get too much of a break between elections anyway.

We have to tell everyone why they need to vote. People need to know it is a Responsibility as well as a Right and they must know why. Complacency will cause our democratic system to deteriorate to a point of no return.

-m –Oh I thought you’d win anyway. Really

Fun Times; Day Trip

It’s been quite a while since my last day trip. So long in fact, that I can’t remember it. A very good friend and I decided to take a day to ourselves and went off to explore an area a little northeast of here. There is a purpose in the jaunts we take. We scout out the various shops in small towns and villages and if we like what we see, we’ll come back, a little closer to Christmas, to shop more seriously.

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We decided, on this particular day, to head up to Alderville, through there to some smaller villages and then over to Campbellford, our ultimate destination. I decided to forego the Tom-Tom mapping thingy for our car but I did google the directions the night before. Found out that google does not have complete directions. It missed a road and added another. But the route makes for a beautiful drive, in spite of a heavy mist and we could still appreciate the autumn colours. Still in full display, I think they’re just hitting their peak. Beautiful golds and vibrant reds but guess what? I forgot to bring my camera and I realize blogging is not like riding a bike, sometimes you forget things that are important for making a blog more interesting, like a camera.

Since between google and I, the route was fairly easy, we only got lost twice. I am not averse to asking for directions and we stopped at a small auto repair place and the second time at the post office. People in small towns are so helpful and friendly that we couldn’t go wrong. Alderville is a native reserve, there are some gift shops that warrant a second look but also a number of natural “medicine” shops. We passed through many little villages, Roseneath, Hastings, we accidentally went through Warkworth. But we made it to our final destination without major issues.

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Campbellford itself is a fantastic small town! There are many interesting, attractive  small shops in the downtown. We didn’t have time to stop at them but for sure we will on our next visit. We headed directly to our first planned shopping excursion at the World’s Finest Chocolate Store. Who could resist such a place? They sell factory seconds, chocolate that may come out a little misshapen but tastes just fine as well as beautifully finished product. I of course picked up a few samples, as well as a few things for stocking stuffers. Tasty Christmas indeed!

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Next on the list of go-to’s is the Empire Cheese Factory, about ten kilometres south of town. Wow, just wow. We love cheese and this is all locally produced. They have many different types, many with chilis or jalopenos added, some with a boost of garlic even.  I got extra old cheddar, medium marble and some caramelized onion cheese. As well I picked up some special jelly, also locally produced, for the hubby’s Christmas stocking. My friend picked her cheese types and she included curds. With so many types of cheese, jams, jellies and syrup to choose from, I can say that we will be visiting again before Christmas!

Exploring the surrounding countryside is just so much fun when you do it with a friend who doesn’t mind getting lost, or having a very late lunch. We just have a ton of fun together and these little side trips are just a part of our friendship.

Here I Go Again

 

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For the last eighteen months, I have been serving my city as a local councillor. Yes I am retired from my career as a registered nurse, but still keeping busy. My hubby and I had just sold our Florida mobile home when I got a phone call asking if I would be interested in serving as a councillor. I had lost the 2014 election, love my city and enjoy the give and take of politics, so of course I said yes. I really enjoyed that stint and decided to run in the election of 2018. Sadly I did not win this one either, so I am grateful for the experience of the last year and a half.

Now I am in the process of cleaning out my office in city hall, it amazes me how much paper and paraphernalia I have accumulated, but I have just three file drawers to do and I’m clear. I will continue to go into the office until the end of the month when the new council is sworn in, there are still questions to answer and residents to help. I do believe I have done a good job during my tenure but now it’s time to look forward.

So I ask myself what will I do now? I believe its important to keep our brains active as well as our bodies, so I am writing again. Starting with this blog and maybe, one day, a novel. I’ll try the crafty thing again, though I’m not very good at it. I’d like to have a little home business that doesn’t involve booking parties or selling to my friends and family. We have just moved to a rather large home with our two sons and for half of every month, two grandchildren are here. This will be interesting.

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One benefit is that we are opening boxes we’ve stored for four years. I’ve already sold a couple of things on the local buy and sell site. Hmm maybe this is a business in the making. It won’t make a ton of money but it could be fun and turn a wee profit. I guess that’s one thing to do and judging from the number of boxes, it’ll keep me busy this winter. I discovered some sterling silver pieces that came from my mother and grandmothers, that are quite tarnished. It will take a few days to clean those up and see what they are and if they are worth keeping. We’ve already asked our boys and their wives if they want any of our stuff and got the predicted “no thanks” so I’ll see if I want anything.

I’m going to volunteer with the local Crime Stoppers group and have started knitting scarves for the needy program here. I already have a day trip planned with a friend for next week. If we enjoy ourselves, I’ll write about it. Heck, I’ll write about it even if we don’t enjoy ourselves. And of course we have the Christmas prepping starting soon. I think my days will be pretty busy.

As the saying goes, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

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It’s a New Life

Once again I am apologizing for not blogging as frequently as I promised. I actually made a New Year’s resolution to blog weekly and, as with most resolutions, that one got broken too. I did have a good reason though and you’re going to hear all about it.

I retired from nursing six years ago. The work was becoming hard physically and mentally I felt it really wasn’t as challenging as it could be. I needed something different. I thought I would relax, do some writing, study the use of crystals in health and healing, maybe travel a little, further explore my interest in politics. I did run for political office, unsuccessfully but that was okay. The hubby and I had always wanted, we thought, to spend our winters in a warm place and of course be home the rest of the year. We did travel to Great Britain and had a fabulous trip. We bought a mobile home in Florida and a trailer in Ontario, did some sight seeing, golfing, learned shuffleboard, played cards, all the things snowbirds do, but things change.

We really weren’t satisfied with that lifestyle. When you have worked all your adult life, it’s very hard to make the switch. We missed our sons and their families. The grandchildren were growing up and we weren’t there to see it happen for half the year. Other than being warm all winter, the Florida lifestyle was not for us. Nor was the trailer life we envisioned having here in Ontario. I missed having my “things” around me, I missed my family, and I missed my friends. So we sold our mobile home in Florida and our trailer in Ontario and got ourselves a nice little apartment, easy to care for and once again I have what I need and want at hand. But as I said, things change.

We sold our Florida place in mid-February with the new owners taking possession on March fifteenth. Just after the sale but before we came home we heard that one of our council members had passed away unexpectedly. As I said, I had run unsuccessfully in the city election, three were elected and I came in fourth so I wasn’t sure if her passing would have any effect on me. I got a phone call a few days later from a private citizen to ask if I still lived in the city. Then after a few more days, I received a call asking that, if the city council decided to appoint someone for the last eighteen months of the term and if I was nominated, would I accept the appointment. Since I had long wanted to serve my city and it’s residents, the answer was an easy one for me. I said yes and was subsequently appointed about five days after returning from Florida.

Whew and that’s how I got to this point in my retirement. Things change and I have a whole new life happening right now. I love it! I am working again but I’m not physically exhausted. I’m using my brain, my listening skills, my public speaking skills, what I hope are my people skills. I am a bit obsessive-compulsive at work. I like a clean desk at the end of the day, accomplished not by just putting everything away but by answering the messages & solving the problems. I am trying to make my city just a little bit better and am thoroughly enjoying this new life.