Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

The Toe of the Stocking for 2010

"Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don't wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it's at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored."
Earl Nightingale 1921-1989, Radio Announcer

Well that's as good a resolution as any for 2010, isn't it?

Now if I want to beef  it up with some of the outrageous anti-resolutions recommended by Rob Breszny, what would I decide to do?

My mind doesn't work that way, I am afraid.  I have a daughter who could come up with a half dozen suggestions within minutes, but my style is to let life happen ... to say yes to adventures.  Lately I have been saying no ... so perhaps that will be #1.

Looking back over the past three years, all years of house building and meager money, I realize that I have allowed myself very few treats. (The house this year consumed 2/3 of my real income (including all those extra bits I've managed to make) and income taxes ate up over 1/3, so this year was obviously not a solvent one ... 2007 and 2008 were not either ... but then I used savings which ended up putting me in a worse situation financially because of the taxes.)  When I indulged in the massage the other day I accrued unexpected benefits that went well beyond the hour or so I spent in that dimly lit room.  I have been sleeping again ... and I walked twice as far yesterday as I have recently.  I feel better.  So #2 is going to be about indulging myself in something decadent that will have far reaching therapeutic effects.

Thinking of the things that have made me happy since I moved here, I would also have to include activities that consume me like writing and painting funky furniture ... art of some kind ...  and animals ... and the occasional teaching job.

So ... My List for the Toe of My Stocking

1.    Start saying yes again.
2.    Make a determined effort to pamper myself with one wonderful experience every month or so  ... a massage ... a special lunch at one of Wakefield's excellent restaurants where the chef is a gourmet cook ... a trip.
3.    Keep on painting and writing ... and make sure I keep growing by attending something like the Blue Heron workshop and taking some art courses locally.
4.    Continue to enjoy what this lake offers me ... peace ... solitude ... community.
5.    Pepper my life with enjoyable ways to make money ... dog sitting ... language teaching ... maybe make those bits of money my pampering money now that the major expenditures for the house are over ... or at least the ones that are essential, not choices. This past year I made $2500 by looking after animals, teaching and selling my funky creations.  If I made half as much this year I would have $100 per month to play with.

Happy New Year Everyone.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Am I the Only One ?

Do you get this?

The PC Government want to prorogue Parliament till March.  They've just had their Christmas break.  And now the people we pay big salaries to are told to stay home till March?  So that Stephen Harper can load the Senate?  So that the government bills that might be defeated will be shelved?

I don't really care about the politics right now.  But who the hell is running the country for the next three months?  We are paying parliamentarians to work but Harper is giving them a paid holiday ... a holiday paid by you and me.

The only bright side of that is that my friend and neighbour spends more time up here when Parliament is not in session.

But honestly, I really don't get it at all.

Do you?

My Massage

I feel as if I have been given a new body ... one that is limber and flexible and sleeps well ... had a great massage yesterday!

This morning's headlines were all gloom and doom as usual:

Study shows popular herbal supplement doesn't slow mental decline ... DAMN ... just when I started taking it.  OH WELL,  you can help yourself by downloading this memory enhancing game ...

UNFORTUNATELY, with my dial-up it took so long to load that I forgot what I was trying to do and wandered off before I got to experiment with Lost in Migration, the attention improvement game in the series.

US health official: "Woman with anthrax may have swallowed spores airborne by drumming."

DAMN AGAIN, I was just thinking I might take up drumming seriously now that we have a local teacher.

Trouble struck paradise this week when a British man who has the "Best Job in the World" as the caretaker of a tropical Australian island was stung by a potentially deadly jellyfish. NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT THAT.

A 12-year-old boy has been charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of a 14-year-old girl in northern Manitoba, RCMP said late Tuesday.  OR THIS.

The guy who does horoscopes, Rob Brezny,  can always see the bright side:

His advice for me for 2010 is interesting:

"We should not think of our past as definitely  settled, for we are not a stone or a tree," wrote poet Czeslaw Milosz. "My  past changes every minute according to the meaning given it now, in this  moment." I suggest you make abundant use of this wisdom in 2010.  According to my reading of the astrological omens, you will have  unprecedented power to re-vision and reinterpret your past. Keep the  following question in mind as you go about your work: "How can I  recreate my history so as to make my willpower stronger, my love of life  more intense, and my future more interesting?"

Rob gives HOMEWORK every week.  This one is intended as a substitute for New Year's resolution-making:

Make a list of your anti-resolutions. What weird habits,  incorrigible vices, dissident uprisings, and controversial actions do you  promise to cultivate in 2010?

Maybe that's what I will put in the toe of the stocking this year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A Pair of Days

December 28, 2009 ...December 29, 2009
8 a.m. and no word from Mud Mama ...

Where are you, girl?  I've been reading about icy roads all along your route ... and I'm getting worried.

She is safe ... arrived after a long drive through the ice storm ...

Today is the last of the mild days for a while.  The temperatures are supposed to drop from right around the freezing mark to -15 tonight and tomorrow the range will be from -15 to -20.  Brrr!

I will run my car and scrape the back window today as I have a massage scheduled for noon tomorrow.  Mmmn ... wish the cold snap were coming on Wednesday so that the massage could be on a mild day when I had to go to the village for groceries anyway.  Today Kenya and I will go for a long walk ... the road-destroying neighbours are back ... hope the road is still intact.

Last night when we checked, their car was gone.  I wonder if they drove the kids up and let them stay.  I hope not.  These kids have rifles that they aim through the trees toward the road.  Kenya has been concerned all morning about their presence.  At least now she doesn't bark incessantly ... just sits and stares up their hill from our plateau and gives the odd woof to let them know she's watching from a safe distance.

Her attention was shifted for a short time by a small animal living below the snow.  She dug furiously, tail wagging madly, in the absurd hope that she would catch it and perhaps have a playmate.  The time she caught the mouse in her cone she had no interest in killing or eating it.  It was simply an interesting diversion.  Most of the dogs I've owned have been predators, one of whom caused a mouse to flee to safety under my skirt.  They were dogs whose intentions were not kindly.  Kenya really does like other species and seems surprised every time one of them shoots a quill or lashes out with a claw.

I bought Barbara Kingsolver's book as a Christmas gift and am intrigued by it.  She writes beautifully, of course, but that is a bonus.  It's all about food ... healthy, environmentally intelligent food choices.  It's called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  So far there is nothing startlingly new in it, but it merges science, history, and philosophy to create the memoir of a family decision to live in a place where they could know and trust their food sources.  It does not read like a harangue because it is written by a very good writer who cares deeply about her subject. Kingsolver's collaborators are her husband, a biologist, and her daughter, a teenager.

I have one mitt to finish before Mud Mama's kids arrive so will work on that today as well as dipping into the book.    It is finished and wrapped.

When Kenya and I came back from our walk we met a kid heading out with a suitcase.  I asked if he was up by himself ... no there were several of them ... he mentioned that the road was getting more solid.  I said I'd had the necessary road work done; that it had been a mess before that.  He muttered that he was sorry.  Kids don't usually apologize for parents.  Was he the drunk driver or was he simply incompetent ... and where was the car ???  Mysteries ... I usually like them ... but I really wish this one would disappear along with all the people staying at the cottage next door.

Tanya came over yesterday and had lupper with me.  We exchanged gifts and talked about Oberon's upcoming visit while she and her sister go to the Middle East.  (Oberon is the king of the fairies and a very nice cat.)

Kenya and I got less than three hours sleep last night.  She was having anxiety attacks because of the wind which was hurling ice at the house and doing other scary things.  I went through my entire repertoire of ineffectual attempts to soothe and exasperated reactions, and finally put her in her crate where she cried like a puppy for a very long time.  I decided at 4 a.m. to resort to drugs but by then she was too upset to even consider the gravol crushed up in tuna juice I was offering, so I let her out where she disappeared for fifteen minutes.  At that point I was thinking that even if she ran away it would be preferable to the weeping, wailing and shivering I had been enduring since 9:30. Needless to say she came back.  We live on a private road on a tiny lake after all. She finally settled down after pacing for another half hour.  I guess she deigned to look at the tuna water, downed the pill and it finally worked.  I will intervene with gravol much earlier next time.

Kenya is now catching up on lost sleep.  I am wide awake and exhausted. Good thing I have the massage scheduled for today.  I hope I will be able to get up my hill and out of here by noon.

Does anyone have any non-chemical solutions for acute anxiety in dogs?  (Or any kind of solution for a human insomniac?)

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Help! I am being held hostage by ...

December 27, 2009
Help!  I'm being held hostage by gremlins, and they are tickling me!

Gardens this past decade  have been accosted by such things as Sudden Oak Death, Creeping Charlie and Perennial Pepperweed, all new or increased in strength by global warming.  Last night I seem to have been dealing with a different force also caused by climate change: ice gremlins.

The ice gremlins have sheeted my road making it impossible to crawl out of my hermitage.  They have weighted down the birds' Christmas tree downing it across the back door sill. I could move the tree of course ... after all it is one I cut down and carried home myself, and even covered in ice,  it is portable.  The icy hill leading out of my place is another matter, but I am rather glad that I cannot leave home just now.  I like the peace of being isolated with Kenya.

But last night's invasion was really strange. It was as if they were playing tricks all night long.  The phone would give several blasts then fall silent.  Not real rings.  More like alarm buzzes.  Each time I was wrenched out of deep sleep.   I had no idea what time it was, because after the first time, the radio's clock kept blinking at 12:46. 

These days (and nights) I never  pass up an opportunity to pee, so I went into the bathroom and discovered that there were blinking lights in the laundry room as well.  The dryer had insominia.  I turned it off again and returned to bed.

At 4:56 they were at it again, and this time they had me up for the day.  They had turned my printer on.

I lost the first document I started when the power cut out again, so this will be a very short post ... I think I will turn off the computer, boil a kettle of water, get the wood stove going, grab my flashlight,  clamp on my crampons and head out with Kenya to see what's going on outside.  Even if we don't find the mischievous gremlins,  it should be beautiful.

Later ... not beautiful ... not icy ... just soggy .  And ... my neighbours (the noisy obnoxious ones who drink too much, have filthy mouths and  don't pay anything toward road maintenance)  had been up on the 25th and left on the 26th ... obviously drunk and driving erratically.  The whole road is torn apart and half the area on the sides where they careened from one ditch to another.  I was sorry I'd gone out!

Friday, 25 December 2009


I had a most unusual Christmas Eve this year ... but I have had less than three hours of sleep and have another Christmas dinner later today so I won't give the details now.  Just one hint.  Two visitors wearing blue gloves arrived at 4:45 a.m., bossed everyone around, ordered the dogs to leave and played with a cat.

More later.

In the meantime,




Thursday, 24 December 2009

Flower Pot Tree

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My Stocking ... not where it hangs

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The Toe of the Stocking

I have probably the most beautiful Christmas stocking imaginable.  It was crafted by a dear friend who loved me and believed the best of me.  I will post a photo of the stocking later, but for now, trust me; it is a superb piece of craftsmanship and artistry that pays tribute to our friendship and her awareness of the strength and beauty of women.

She gave me this stocking when I was feeling bereft.  Lucky children believe that everything is possible at Christmas; that they are gifted with an infinite amount of love from everyone from their siblings to their parents to some strange old man with a flowing white beard.  My Christmases were like that until I was fifty-five ... long after I should have outgrown such childish notions.

My father, who was a dreadful parent for 364 days a year became the perfect parent at Christmas, even after I was long past needing that kind of reassurance.  My partner of eighteen years continued to coccoon me at Christmas in that magical generosity.  When I was fifty-five, my father died and my "closest thing to a good marriage" broke apart.  And when I lost those two men, Christmas shattered too.

I was living with a decent  man when Linda gave me this stocking, but he didn't believe in Christmas.  In fact he did (and does) everything a little ass backwards.  He gives beautiful gifts of love to women when the relationships have drifted apart or once they have ended.  I own an absolutely beautiful diamond studded gold band that he gave me as I was leaving that relationship.  He gave me the money to see Pat in England years after we split up.   But he never gave me a Christmas or birthday gift ... not once in the seven years we were together.  And, even worse, he threw away any I gave him.

Every Christmas since I received that stocking I have hung it up by whatever was acting as a chimney that year in that place, but except for one year when the family got together at Christmas and exchanged stocking gifts, the only thing the stocking has held are pieces of paper.  Some of those pieces pre-date the stocking.

The earliest is dated January 1, 1993. I wanted to live simply and travel much.
1994 was the year Pumpkin, the groundhog we had over-wintered, awoke on New Year's Day and came into the house for a visit and a meal before returning to her hibernation for the rest of the winter.  It contained wishes for 1994, the last full year I was really happy and content in a good relationship.

I wished for enough money to retire ... and got it when my father died in early 1995.  I wished for interesting travel opportunities and went to Namibia for six months in 1995 .. and left my truly happy un-marriage of 18 years.  I wished for family togetherness (we are awfully far-flung these days) and a brother-in-law's recovery from cancer (he died).  My last wish was for a career opportunity that was un-threatening ... and I certainly have that now.  I guess overall the message is that you should be careful what you wish for.

1995's wishes were filled with plans to make money in fulfilling ways so that my partner and I could continue to be happy ... most did not pan out ... and I left him that year.

In 1997 I was with Roy but hadn't moved to the farm despite the pressure he was applying.  I wanted to lose 10 pounds, follow up on volunteer opportunities ... and move toward marriage.  Yes ... he had asked me to marry him.

The next year I wrote up one of these was 2000 ... I wrote an essay on world events.  This was followed by a treatise on how my life was changed by significant events in each decade of my life.  I stopped reading somewhere in page one and skimmed till I got to the last short paragraph on what I hoped to accomplish in 2000.

I wanted to finish the novel I was working on while we were in Eleuthera ... and I had great hopes for getting it published. I finished it but got nowhere with the publishing part.

I wanted a Project Overseas assignment ... and didn't get it ... but got other work with Mongolian teachers.

I had some ideas about doing some research on another novel set in Nova Scotia ... something about Springhill ... it fizzled.

In December 2003 I wrote about wanting my own place again, about returning to Mongolia, about helping the kids in Kenya, and returning to Kenya and to serious writing.  I have done all those things.

December 17, 2004
"Don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't be dreaming about.  You have bigger goals in life than some people realize.  What you need is someone by your side who has big goals too."  I have no idea where that originated but I kind of wish I had found him.

My goals included writing more, exercising more, getting a dog, and returning to Kenya.

There was a list of ten commandments about men ...  the most important ones: expect the best and don't settle for less ... and learn to rejoice in singlehood.

I wrote that I must become at peace with myself and my life; that I had to relax and slow down and be part of the natural world to get there.  I wondered if I had to discover what I needed and live my life as animals do ... simply ... following my real needs.  I cautioned myself to stop leaving so that I could arrive ... to stop dashing off to other places in the world and outside my life ... to come home to myself.  I was 64 when I wrote that.  Too soon old; too late smart!

In 2005, my son advised me to use my imagination and spirit of adventure to find my life partner.  I wrote that I was coming closer to the kind of inner peace I had written about the year before.  I wrote about how I liked living in a place that was easily accessible to my friends ... certainly Westboro was a lot handier than the hermitage is.  But I was beginning to think about moving out to the lake.

There was no toe of the stocking in 2006 ... I was a nomad that Christmas.

In 2007, I was living in my partly finished hermitage with Kenya.  I had met and finished things quickly with a man called Tom.  I hadn't loved him but he gave me hope that some day I might find love.

I was looking forward to the summer of 2008 when I would have to become a nomad for the summer.  I was planning how I might spend the two months. I thought of returning to Kenya to work with SAIPEH.  But what I really wanted to find was an all-consuming project ... I wanted soemthing that would grab me by the throat and not let go.

In 2008, I wrote that I still wanted that but that I would settle for a continuation of what I had right then ... a lot of little unimportant projects that kept me happily occupied ... my blog, knitting, felting, pottery, friends, family, dogs, this house ...   I ended by writing that I was pulling in the perimeter of my scope to fit my energy levels, and that I was discovering that I was happiest when things were simplest.

So now we are coming to the end of 2009, and I will be adding a new scrap of paper to the toe of the stocking.  I will be looking back on the year that included a creative interest that grabbed me by the throat, a 50,000 word marathon novel writing experience, and a trip to London to visit a seriously ill friend.  I am not sure what I will be writing, but I suspect that inner peace, and creative pursuits that don't tax my resources too much will be part of it.

What will you be putting in the toe of your stocking as this year ends?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


I had a good day but I am beat!

I bought the wine and other liquor I intended to buy for the holiday.  Did you realize that the only Grand Marnier at the SAQ warehouse is an enormous bottle kept behind the cashes which costs $61 after the discount of 15%  which you get when you buy 12 bottles of anything?  I need about one ounce of it for the cake.

Before crossing the bridge to Ottawa,  I dropped in at Tamarack's for a few minutes, and  then did my banking. I was early for my lunch date so I gassed up the car and spent half an hour buying children's books for the little 'uns.  (That was fun!)

Then I met my buddy and we had a wonderful lunch at a new restaurant on Wellington called Apollo Mezzes ... a whole meal of delicious Greek tidbits.  I had Arabic mezzes in London when Nolan and I went out to dinner.  These were better ... I would say as good as the ones I ate many times in Jordan.  And the wine was superb ... a gentle Greek red that is imported by the restaurant.  The manager turned out to be the son of a former colleague and he was at Philemon as a student.  I will go back.

After lunch I headed back up to the hills and stopped enroute to pick up a squash, berries, whipping cream ... and a tiny little tree that fits into a flower pot.  It is beautiful.  I dressed it in a half blind way ... and will likely have to make some adjustments tomorrow in daylight.

Tomorrow morning I have to cook the squash and bake the cake, and do a bit of shopping in the village.  I will finish wrapping gifts in Hull where I am going for the first of the Christmas celebrations with Tamarack and her family.  It will be fun.

I will stay overnight and, weather permitting, drive home early Christmas morning ... then head back into Ottawa in the afternoon to my daughter's for a turkey dinner with our family (or a good part of it).  If it is a stormy day Kenya and I will stay at Tamarack's and watch movies with her brother and daughter ... and then drive over to Zoom's.

Feeding Birds

Yesterday when I put up the chickadees' tree by the back door I decided to give them a special treat.  I took the bin of sunflower seeds outside and put a pile on the lid.  Then I attached apple quarters to the tree branches by red wool bits.  They were interested and dive bombed the tree several times during the afternoon, but they stuck with the tried and true bird feeder mostly.

At 3:30 this morning I awoke and realized that the bin was still outside. Expecting to find it ravaged by squirrels and emptied by  raccoons awakened by the party, I went downstairs and outside in my housecoat.

What I saw was utterly unlike the chaotic scene I had envisaged.  Snow wafted down gently and the scene could have been used to illustrate Silent Night.  I didn't stay ... just dusted off the bin and brought it inside ... but I am very glad I had even a brief encounter with this night here at this lake.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Count Down 2009 Festive Season

December 22, 2009
The On-going Journal of Christmas Eve Countdown

1.    I went downstairs to make tea to relieve the recurrence of this weird cold-flu thing that started December 8 and seemed to have run its course.  I didn't go to the Solstice party but I did burn the bit of paper I intended to burn in the bonfire.  Whatever I have, whether it is a recurrence or something new, is causing my lungs to feel clogged and heavy and I suspect my asthma is acting up.  Anyway hot fluids seem to help so I made tea.

2.    While I was waiting for the tea to steep I decided to feed Kenya.  I keep her food in the utility room and once again I smelled something disgusting in that room.  I had been getting whiffs of it for ages but today it was really strong.  I removed all movable items one at a time and sniffed each in turn.  Nothing.  I swept as I did and made some executive decisions about which things could spend the winter months in the porch. Then I decided to look behind the freezer.  Oh dear.  There it was.  A roast of beef rotting in the corner.  Yeech!  I pulled the freezer out as far as possible, dragged out the package, and filled a pail with hot water and cleaner.  Then I began swabbing away at the offensive blotch on the cement floor.  After a few good moppings, I changed the water in the pail and added vinegar and went back to work.  When I had finished, the room looked infinitely tidier and smelled truly clean.  Terrible waste of roast beef, of course.  And what are dogs for if not to alert one to the things their noses can detect long before they become high enough for a 69 year old nose to recognize.

3.    I have too many things to finish before Christmas I am afraid.  Five handmade gifts have been started or planned but may not be finished in time.   I will work as much as possible today, tomorrow and Thursday, and try to complete as many as possible.  They are all for people I love ... and so I may have to beg their forgiveness and ask some of them to accept promissory notes.

4.    Well ... just got started knitting ... not on one of the gifts hanging over my head but on one that is on my needles that won't have to be wrapped till after Christmas  ... and then Kenya came in with a goopy eye and needed first aid.  I suspect she may have been swiped by the unsheathed claw of the local feral cat she likes too well.  Good thing I had a goopy eye for half of last year and had the remedy close at hand ... and good thing she is such a patient dog, especially when I managed to treat the wrong eye first.  You would think that a dog with one blue and one brown eye would not be subjected to such things.  I put it down to feeling a little scattered because I am falling behind.

5.    One just needs polyurethane!  10 a.m.  It was one of those projects that started as one idea and then morphed into another because I didn't feel good about the first ... but in the meantime I was immobilized by indecision.  Now I have to find an image for the second one ... I think I know what I want ...

6.    2:30 and the dog has been walked, a Christmas tree cut and hauled down, mail picked up, and I have both gifts to the polyurethaning stage.  I decided after looking at the tree inside that I wanted it outside where I can decorate it for the chickadees.  I will start doing that tomorrow.  One of the nicest pieces of mail was a photo of Chelsea Katherine.  I know all women who are related to a new baby say this baby is beautiful  ... but honestly she is translucent ... she looks like an angel.

7.    Just received word that Mud Mama and gang will not be descending on the hermitage after Christmas.  I will of course see them all but this means that I don't have to put away my entire life for a week ... and that's a good thing because I really should start working on the two chairs I have promised for January because I am going to Deb's for a few days early in the month.

8.    It is now 8 p.m. and I have been knitting and thinking and polyurethaning ... and talking on the phone and realizing that I have some things to prepare for tomorrow, others for Christmas Eve, and still others for Christmas Day ... but nothing is impossible and everything will be fun.  Tomorrow I have to get cash and enjoy lunch.  The next day I am the squash lady.  Christmas Day I am the dessert woman.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah, Everyone!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter Solstice: Brighter Days Ahead

On Balance at the End of 2009

I awoke this morning in the dark, listened to Kenya breathing over on her pillow, and thought about how I could portray this year in a page of my sketch booking journal ... a balance scale was what I decided on ... a visual portrayal of just how balanced 2009 had been.  

Then I got up and turned on the computer to check my email, and found this: "When you develop your ability to balance your emotions, unexpected problems won't knock you off balance as easily, and you'll return more quickly to a positive outlook."

Coincidences like this always make me smile.

I decided to go back through my blog posts and jot down the important things that occurred over the past twelve months.  A great many bad things happened this year, to my family and friends, more than usual.  And my budget certainly didn't balance this year.  But I am ending the year feeling happy.  It will be interesting to see how it all weighs out.

I went in the hole about $15,000 as we finished this house.  But it is somewhat balanced by the fact that I was not forced to withdraw RRSPs so my taxes and medical costs will be lower next year ... and of course the house looks so much better now.

I continued to look after dogs and also began teaching at River Echo so while the drain on my finances was heavy, I was able to offset some of the losses.  And of course I made money on the funky furniture.

 I had a long bout with writer's block and felt as if I were wading through the tar sands as I worked on Lost and Found Summer, the novel I hoped to workshop at the Great Blue Heron workshop in June-July.  I ended up giving up the idea of the workshop for financial reasons, and I put the novel aside for reasons of sanity.  But then I began to find other creative outlets.

I did some felting.  I learned to knit socks.  I began to paint funky furniture and found that I could sell it.  And I even wrote that 50,000 word first draft in a month for Nanowrimo.

When I weighed the good against the bad, apportioning events a weight of 0-10, the good outweighed the bad. 

This surprised me a little because some of the really bad things that happened to those I love were especially heavy.  It was a year marked by several deaths and far too much illness. One daughter was very ill all year and is still not completely recovered.  She may have to live with chronic pain.  My oldest friend is still very ill.  A newer friend died this year. 

I had a long bout with my eye and the drug's side effects.

But this was also the year that Chelsea Katherine was born.  And so was Lucas. And Pat and Julie got married.

And my daughter beat the breast cancer.  And the health scares that my other daughter and I had turned out to be just scares.

It was a year in which I began relationships, found friendships, re-established connections, some of which continue to grow while others have withered from lack of nurturing.  This was the year I found someone I thought I could love, but it didn't work out.

It has been a year in which I did some real thinking about who I am; a year in which I discovered more than simply how to paint chairs and knit socks.  Some of the insights had to do with what frightens me, what makes me happy, what causes me stress.  I learned that I hate mazes but love labyrinths.

So it has been a year that has depleted bank accounts, stolen health and ended lives, but it has also been a year of growth and rebirth.  One of the messages I've gotten this year is that even great fear and sadness can result in personal growth,  so 2009 has, on balance, been a year in which the positive has outweighed the negative.

I am attending a Winter Solstice party tonight at the Mudpies Pottery.  We will be throwing something we want to be rid of onto the bonfire.  I think I will throw away ill health for all those I love.  I want my daughter to walk pain-free again.  I want Pat to get a bolstered immune system.  I want 2010 to be a healthy year for everyone I care about.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Meanderings of a Murky Mind in a Mad Mad World

I've always thought that truth was stranger than fiction but I just learned of a situation that makes my head spin ... and gives me an idea for a piece of fiction ...  Imagine this ...

A very old, very Catholic woman raised a large family of children in relative poverty in one of our poorest provinces.  For many years she has been in the care of one of her daughters. Now that she is at the end of her life, demented and bed-ridden,  her situation is deplorable.

The daughter could not stand living in the same house with her because of her mother's dementia so she moved next door and set up a baby monitor between the two houses.  Other family members have tried to persuade the care giver to get some respite care for the mother in an institution that is better equipped to handle  elderly bedridden patients, but she is adamant.  No mother of hers will end up in a home.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where the old woman is in terrible pain from suppurating bedsores and an allergic reaction to the renovation.  Oh yes ... did I mention that the caregiver, in order to find an income for her unemployed son, got a government grant for renovations to the old woman's house?  One of the family members has forced that renovation to stop and that has created a situation in which the caregiver now refuses to speak to her siblings.

Why don't the siblings force the issue of an old age home?  The caregiving sister has legal guardianship.  Probably the only way to effect a change would be for family members to put the matter in the hands of the authorities, and who wants to do that to a sister?

The caregiver is feeling martyred.  The family members are feeling helpless.  The old woman at the centre of all this is enduring the most horrible end of a life. 

If she were a child, no one would feel any compunction about calling Children's Aid.

If she were a dog or cat living in such conditions, the Humane Society would be contacted immediately.

But she is a ninety-three year old woman whose plight is being hidden away in a bedroom by an entire family whom she raised.

I wish I knew how to do something to help.  The family doctor visits by the way ... and has not forced the issue ...

Someone asked me the other day what I feared most.  This is it: being old and sick and alone.

Friday, 18 December 2009


It is cold this morning ... so cold that I hate opening the door to let Kenya out or in ... so cold that she wants back in within minutes ... so cold that I suspect her poop freezes before it hits the ground ... so cold that I am very glad I am not a dog wearing only my everyday clothing but a Canadian who has a sensible warm red housecoat for indoors, and silk long johns, undershirts, fleecy things and bulky down garments with hoods for venturing outdoors.

I have to go out at some point because I have promised to deliver the naked little rocking chair to the shop so that a woman whose little boy asked for only one thing to go under the Christmas tree will not be disappointed.  She called a week before Christmas Eve asking if I could do another chair like the one she bid on at the fund raiser.  We said it would be impossible in the short time especially just before Christmas.  She finally decided that she would like it unpainted for under the tree and then would return it to me right after Christmas so that I could paint it.  I kind of like the idea of painting a chair for a little boy who wants one this much.  I will ask her about his favourite colours and interests ... and get as much information as possible so that I can make it a very special chair for a special little boy.

I am also supposed to meet a good friend for lunch in Ottawa.

So I will be leaving my completed house today ... yes I said it ... the house is finished.  Peter worked here and kept his tools in my front hall and back porch for over eight weeks ... so for the first time in over two months I have the house to myself again.  And I can clean and get ready for Christmas!!!  And the house looks wonderful.  He did a beautiful job, not only on the cedar siding but on the installation of the outdoor lights and the little birdhouse box that encloses the hydro meter ... and the windows that he re-installed right way up have frames that are far superior to the original frames ... they are no longer 1/4 to 1/2 inch too long so now the 45 degree angles fit snugly. They look like real windows now.  Thank you, Peter.

Just some random thoughts inspired by my last few days ...

1.  Chickadees are very particular and aggressive about making themselves understood.  one of mine wants me to move the feeder back to its original place.  He dive bombed my ear a couple of days ago to let me know.  I was standing by the feeder's temporary location.  I think birds have more brain power than we give them credit for.

2.  Wild turkeys may not be as clever as chickadees.  I almost ran over one who was wandering in a daze along the 366 a couple of days ago.

3.   It is hard work to be with a deaf person for a couple of hours, even if they have the technology that allows them to hear.  I think it is because they have got into the habit of doing all the talking so that they are not forced to hear,.  Also, because they cannot hear their own voices,  they lack intonation and the other variations we get from a hearing person's voice.  I felt after a couple of hours as if a drill had been running non-stop.  I like my new deaf friend but it is exhausting to be with him for any length of time.

Bundle up today, or stay in by the fire.  I wish I could choose the second option ...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A Post in Three Parts

Well ... I never thought I'd start a blog post with a quote from Norman Vincent Peale ...

But I guess those inspirational speakers, the oft-quoted folks, and the old cliched homilies are now trite and boring because so many people have quoted them ... and that must have occurred because there were little kernels of truth not too well hidden in the words.

I must say I prefer a little more subtlety, a little more respect for the recipient of these words of wisdom, a metaphor perhaps ... something that requires me to do some thinking ... but here anyway is Peale's piece of ponderous pontification:

"You only lose energy when life becomes dull in your mind. Your mind gets bored and therefore tired of doing nothing. Get interested in something! Get absolutely enthralled in something! Get out of yourself! Be somebody! Do something. The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have."

You will be pleased to know that the wise old owl, Le Hibou, has pulled me out of my self- absorbed blue funk of illness, and I am now working on other Zentangle adaptations.  I still have the cough, but I am working again ... and no longer bored.


I have decided not to go to my last class.  The cough?  Maybe.  But it is also the snow that is drifting down and making the hill out of my place slippery.  And the drive into the city.  And the fact that I haven't learned much, not because the teacher doesn't know much about art (she does) or because she doesn't care (she does) or because she is lazy (she is most definitely not).  No ... the problem is that she doesn't have any teaching skills. 

There is an old saw, "Those who can do; those who can't teach".  It is intended as a putdown of teachers.  Many people think that teaching is something anyone can do, not something learned, and not a natural talent that can be honed.  This class has shown me that teaching is an art, a set of skills, something valuable.  It is something that not everyone can do.  It requires more than a good heart, knowledge, and a willingness to pass on that information.

Our teacher can acquire those skills with further training and study, and when she does, her knowledge of her field, her good heart, and her enthusiasm will make her a good teacher.

I am disappointed because I wanted to learn more about art ... about how to take an interest further ... about techniques ... and tricks of the trade ... and mistakes to avoid.  I wanted to come away from this course armed with some tools to make my funky furniture making less fraught with technical mistakes.  Oh well, there will be other courses, and books and other sources of advice ... and that greatest teacher of all, trial and error.  It's just that I don't have enough time to learn everything by guess and by golly, by trial and error.  That's why teachers are so important; they speed up the process of learning.


One of the benefits of the marathon month long writing of the terribly bad novel is that I came to some conclusions about my life ...  and took some definitive action yesterday.  Not sure I should have ... but made the decision and acted on it anyway.  I know that is far too amorphous a statement to make any sense but this is a blog not a private conversation with an intimate friend.

One of the problems with being almost seventy is that you are no longer young enough to be blissfully blind and not old enough to have stopped wanting love. 

Happily married friends tell me that they would never marry again; that all relationships become dull with time; become chores to keep up; that men are boring once the children have been raised and sex is no longer a driving force.  They certainly don't make me want to find someone to love.

I asked a good friend what married life was like, and I thought, as the details came out, that I couldn't imagine any life I would like less.  They were bored by one another, imprisoned by expectations, responsibilities and jealousies, and one at least felt hard done by.  I look at Kenya and also feel I do the lion's share of the work, but she is still fun to play with and not at all jealous.

A very close friend who has what the world would see as the perfect marriage has accepted something I could never accept.  Her husband makes all the decisions and she has to work within those constraints.  She loves him very much and she accepts this element of their relationship.  I couldn't, no matter how much I were loved.

Oh I do see good strong relationships around me of course.  They are the ones in which the partners are good friends who like to work and play together, who have a great deal in common and seem to keep growing as individual people and together as couples.  The problem at nearly seventy, especially if you live alone on an isolated lake with your dog, is finding someone who could be that kind of friend.  And when you think you might have found him, you discover something that makes him an untenable choice.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Is anyone else surprised by things like this?

Make your intruder insatiable, Supercharge bedroom performance  ... found in my mailbox yesterday ... "Intruder"???  an ad based on rapist fantasies?

Calian Technologies has seen the value of its contracts with the City of Ottawa skyrocket since the company's founder was elected mayor in 2006 ... on Yahoo news headlines ... does the man have no idea what the optics of his actions are?  Or does he simply not care?

Maybe I am just getting old ... but really!

I am still entertaining the foul bug and still doing too much so that it gets the upper hand too often.  I hope I am healthier by Tuesday.  I don't want to miss my final class.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Speeding Up Time ...

At almost 70, why would I want to?

"When you have a purpose in life, a vision for what you want to achieve, and know why you want to achieve it, work becomes fun, and the time you spend working seems to just whizz by."

This morning I awoke to find the above piece of advice in my mailbox.  I am not sure about the preamble (purpose, vision etc), but I do know that when work is fun, time flies.  It happened to me all the time when I was teaching full time.  It happens to me when I am engaged with a piece of funky furniture or with a piece of writing that is going well.

Time has dragged when I have been supply teaching or when I have been doing something that requires my presence but no real involvement, so perhaps the part about purposeful work is absolutely right.

Time also moves very slowly when I am too sick to do much, and when I have been writing something I think is patently bad.

I have a very messy kitchen just now.  It demands clean-up.  I know that if I could find the energy to deal with it I could create a decent work space to play with my Le Hibou carousel.  Then perhaps I could lose myself in the painting.

So ... going back to the original quote ... I have a purpose -- to create an inviting work space.  I have a vision of tidy cleanliness -- a table covered by newspaper, with all my supplies set out neatly.  I know why I want to achieve this -- so that I can complete this piece for Le Hibou ... and get on with some other pieces I want to complete before Christmas.  Now I am going to test the theory despite the fact that my right lung is clogged up and aching.  Keep your fingers crossed that time will whizz by!

Other news:
    1.    I've received word that Shea still has four legs and a good appetite; thanks for your good thoughts.
    2.    Gold prices are very high right now and I may try selling things I never wear to a local goldsmith.
    3.    The slate grey ice skin has re-formed in front of the deck.
    4.    The scaffolding goes back to Home Hardware today so the end of the construction is in sight.
    5.    Unfortunately the mess left behind is not; I will be faced with an unpleasant clean-up job next spring.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Perfect Storm

At my age, the perfect storm is beautiful, exciting and does not leave me stranded or exhausted.

This was the perfect storm.  It had a violent monochromatic beauty with no terrible repercussions.

Before the storm, a thin skin of slate grey ice had formed on the lake near the shoreline.  When I woke up on Wednesday the skin was several feet wide and pure white.

All day long the wind howled in the treetops sending Kenya scuttling in under my desk, swirling snow in fierce whorls that scudded past my windows.  It churned up the lake water and sent it rushing from one end of the lake to the other.  This was no ordinary wind.  It didn't seem to have a specific source or purpose but rather changed direction frequently, and paused for breath often.

The ice skin was torn away from the shore and shredded into fragments that were scattered over the lake creating islands shaped like crescent moons and boomerangs.

The boats which had, I thought, been carefully stored for winter, the canoe over the kayak, a chair leaning against both holding them against the railing, were now scattered all over the deck.  I made my careful way down the 22 stairs to the lake, pushing snow aside with each step I took.  The wind tore at my clothing as I  turned both boats over again, but did not attempt to pile them neatly this time.    Kenya, who is usually first onto the deck, hung back.

The quietest place during the storm was in the woods.  Kenya and I made the trek to the mailboxes twice.  Sixty feet above our heads, the wind shrieked as it buffeted groaning tree branches.  On the road we saw several dead branches that had been ripped from the trees: new sticks for Kenya to play with, but even so, there was a kind of peace as we walked in that white arched passage between the open parking area and Pike Lake Road.  I felt completely safe.  Kenya was likely more realistic as she cringed and cast baleful glances up into the treetops.  But then Kenya is always the one who barks and maintains watch while I relax and enjoy my hermitage safe in the knowledge that she is here, that the only people who venture in here are friends, and that our home is secure.

I shoveled the 39 steps once yesterday, and Leonard plowed the road once and then came in for coffee and banana bread.  Today, the finest possible dusting of snow is sifting down, and I will take my shovel and go out to play in the snow in a few minutes.

I hope your storms was as perfect as ours if you were experiencing your first storm of the season.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Random Thoughts While Home with the Flu

"The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present."  Barbara De Angelis

I read this today and was glad it was one of the truths I discovered a long time ago.  I think my profession helped me understand it back when I was very young, still in my early twenties.  If a teacher harbours grudges she will not be happy in her job.  A classroom is one of the situations in which a short memory is an asset.  Every day has to be a new day.

Oh, I have forgotten the lesson at times ... I'm still not very forgiving toward the incompetent doctor who misdiagnosed and mistreated my broken dislocated finger ... and I still do not trust the Hull and Gatineau hospitals ... but generally speaking I forgive easily ... and indeed, often forget as well.

Old spouses and lovers have long ago been forgiven.  As have my parents.  I think once I understand why an adult  acts as he does, it is easier to get over a hurt, a fear, or a bit of cruelty.

Thank you, Barbara De Angelis, for the reminder.

I am nursing a flu bug.  Well actually, I am treating myself very gently, and enduring the flu bug, swatting it with regular blasts of Cold FX which bolsters my white blood cells' ability to do the actual fighting.  I am also fueling my immune system with Vitamin C and drinking plenty of hot teas and water ... (and just a little wine).  As well, I am dressing in cozy snuggly bugglies and an old cashmere turtleneck I brought back from Mongolia ten years ago.The sore throat began on Monday and my choice of treatment seems to be working well, as I am already feeling better today than I did yesterday.

And now we have our first winter storm arriving so I will be snowed in until I have the energy to dig myself out.  This means that I likely won't be doing much besides resting and pampering myself until Saturday.

I do hope that we don't lose power.  These winds are very strong and gusty ... the kind that hydro poles seem unable to withstand.  And my wood supply has not yet arrived.  I have a few bags of logs ... but not enough for any lengthy outage.

If necessary I will get Peter to help me pick up more logs tomorrow.  I think he will be coming.  And now that we have snow I can get my big order delivered next weekend.

I think I will start my gift for Le Hibou today ... the base coat anyway ... and then it will become something to play with.  I am planning a Zentangle owl with just a single splash of colour.

Good thoughts needed by Pat, who is getting heavier doses of a stronger antibiotic to help her weakened immune system, and by Shea (Tamarak's dog) who is having surgery tomorrow.  We hope it will be to remove the lump, not the front leg.  Dogs are great at adjusting to three legs, but Shea loves to swim and that might be harder to manage than walking and running.  Maybe we could fit him with a small rubber flipper-like prosthesis if it became necessary.  Now there is a puzzle for an inventive engineer to solve!

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Weekend is Over

The last post was entitled "The Weekend is Upon Us" ... and it was a sad little post ... self pitying ... This one will, I hope, be a little more upbeat.

I feel all partied out and it isn't even Christmas!  On Friday I had company.  On Saturday I went to the Art de la Paix open house and straight from there to Rosemary's dinner party.  On Sunday morning I had tea with Erin and proceeded to the Honey House party/sale.  In the afternoon we met Quenty and his people and then went to a dinner party at Lise's house. 

With the exception of the Honey House experience, every single one of these events was fun.  The Honey House was PACKED ... so crowded that I couldn't see the products and I actually became claustrophobic.  I met the couple who own Zeke (the Nova Scotia Duck Toller) and they had some sad news.  Zeke had just been put down.  He had a growth on the spine that crippled him within a couple of days.  The only other option was an $8000 surgery that would have allowed him walk afterwards with a little sling type contraption.  Not much choice.

The open house at Art de la Paix  was happier ... good (free) munchies and wine ... and I met some old friends and a local artist I didn't know (Denise Coker) whom I would like to know better.

Both dinner parties were here at the lake.  I have very good neighbours ... who also happen to be very good cooks.   Comfortable old friends at the first one; interesting new folks at the second.

Erin and I were joined by Bailey and her mother who are book lovers and we all discussed Nanowrimo.  Erin and I both completed the marathon and have spent the past week getting over it.  We printed out our 50,000 words in the past couple of days and discovered that they weren't quite as bad as we imagined while we churned them out.

Today I am going to dig through snow to start cleaning up the yard.  Tamarak suggested letting the cedar sawdust and bits I have not salvaged rot in the woods.  Peter suggested burning.  I am afraid of fire and really don't want to burn without a burn barrel anyway.  Any other suggestions are welcome.  I would love to find a good use for the enormous pile of sawdust created.  Maybe sachets to keep moths away?   Or stuffing for dog pillows?

At any rate I better get started.  Have a great week.  Mine has a few more social oppotunities ... dinner at The Mill ... Open House at River Echo ... and a djembe drumming class on Saturday afternoon ... and ... of course ... my class on Tuesday.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Weekend is Upon Us ...

Once again I seem to be running on a treadmill.  Tuesday was my Ottawa class and errand day.  The rest of the week was spent dealing with things I'd left undone while writing and traveling.  The cedar siding is almost completely installed now and I love it.  But now I have an incredibly large mess to clean up.

Friday  morning I called Pat and learned that she will be released soon ... but not home as she had hoped.  She will be sent back to the Whittington Hospital as soon as they have a bed for her.  Her white blood cell count is very low.  Later I took my car in to have a number of small things done to it (small as in almost $800). 

Then I completed the little sweater and printed the Nanowrimo novel (I really have to start calling it something else.  Its working title was "Men of My Dreams".     Today I will start re-reading it ...  if I can.  A blog reader posted an interesting comment on the final Nanowrimo entry.

Friday evening Pat and Julie came bearing dessert ... and their wedding photos.  Before they left, Pat changed some light bulbs in my high ceilinged den so that I could see again while working at the computer.  I wish he'd arrived at the beginning of Nanowrimo month  instead of the beginning of December :-)

Christmas is coming ... I am not sure how I feel about Christmas this year.  One part of me still remembers how much I always loved Christmas.  The other part of me dreads it.  Christmas has not been a truly happy time for me since the Christmas of 1994 ... 15 Christmases ago. But I think it all began to unravel before that.

I remember it as a warm gathering together of everyone I love.  When everyone I loved was a small group of people it was easier to create that kind of Christmas.  As a kid, it was just my father and me.  Later it was my father, my Oma and me.  Still later my children became part of the circle.  And, when there were spouses, they joined the circle of love that surrounded me.  As my children made their own lives they created their own circles of love.

I have a feeling that once children grow  up and have children of their own who are not easy to transport, those Christmas circles become smaller again.  They shrink back to the original couples.  I hope that isn't true.  I would hate to think that Kenya and I will be toasting one another with tea and Dentistix on Christmas morning.

Good grief (she said with some asperity) get a grip!  December 25 is just another day on the calendar. And a few days after Christmas your house will be filled with Mud Mama's gang, and you will be wondering when they will finally leave so that you can hear yourself think again.

And, she went on, think about how lucky you are to be able to spend Christmas on Pike Lake with your dog.

Pat will likely spend her Christmas in a London hospital room with her partner, her sons and their families visiting.

Pat and Julie are planning to divide Christmas into neat little segments: Christmas Eve, Christmas brunch and Christmas dinner which they will spend in a variety of places. They are trying to reduce the amount of traveling they are forced to do on Christmas Day.  (The simplest way to do that is to have babies!)

Tamarak is not sure whether she will be in Trois Rivieres or Ottawa or Hull, and she doesn't know if  her dog will have four legs or three this Christmas.  She feels like hiding under a blanket till it's all over.

What are you all doing for Christmas?

You are all welcome to join Kenya and me for tea and Dentistix... or ... if I know in time ... for something a little more appetizing.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Another Day of Rest ...

Or ... another day of the rest of my life after Nanowrimo ...

I puttered all day ... it was one of those grey sodden days that do not inspire much ... so I organized a bit of my contact list ... and baked a sponge cake for Saturday's do ... and sorted out some financial stuff ... and looked at the baby sweater pieces I need to put together before Chelsea outgrows the sweater ... and pasted some photos in the book I am making to keep a record of my funky furniture ... and made a couple of phone calls and fielded a few emails ... and Kenya and I went for a walk.

But really it was a wasted day ...

I watched The Thin Red Line ... that is a tough movie ...

We are going to meet a new puppy on Sunday.  That will be fun.  This dog owner has a friend on the lake and is making sure she has a place for her new puppy to stay if she has to leave her without much notice.

The best news of the day is that Pat is due to be released soon.

And the very gratifying news I received today via Zoom's  blog  (see my side bar) was that we have both been nominated for best personal blog in the Canadian Blog Awards.  I am more than astounded ... and very grateful to whomever of my faithful readers nominated me.  Thank you very much.  If you go to Zoom's blog ... on the side bar, you can find out who else has been nominated and also how to vote. 

All the best to all the bloggers whose blogs have been nominated, and for all you blog readers, that's a good place to disover some new blogs you might want to take a look at.  I'm going to do that tomorrow when I have some energy to spare.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

New Header


Look what Tammy produced from my photo!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

First Snow: the Hermitage


December 1, 2009
November is over ...  TGNIO

The morning quarantines:
far glad bad
that there put
news right name

From Robert Genn's Letter This Morning:
Studies by neuroscientist Dr Ying-Hui Fu of the University of California indicate early risers may be living with a mutated gene. I can handle that. Familial Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (FASPS) is when people are early to bed and early to rise. They may also be healthy, wealthy and wise. Some FASPS folks like to get started in the middle of the night.

My To-Do List for the Day:
1.    Deal with bills that need paying
2.    Do my monthly report for November's spending
3.    Take bottles in for refund (because I need space ... I'm really not desperate)
4.    Go to the bank
5.    Go to my sketch booking class
6.    Buy a lens cap (I lost mine yesterday) and a cartridge for my printer (I want to print the whole damn ms)
7.    Buy two more cases at Ikea.
8.    Send off some important business emails
9.    Phone Nolan
10.    Find out about the possibility of visiting Toronto around Christmas.

Of course other things will be added (and some won't get done), but basically what I want to do today is get my life back on track after the marathon that November has been: 50,403 words; a trip to England with its concomitant stress; a physically grueling trip to Montreal; 3 sketch booking classes; 9 hours of teaching; my car's tire and oil change appointment; a few dinner guests, Remi's weeklong visit, and one overnight visitor; the retirees' luncheon; and a broken tooth that had to be fixed twice.

I wonder how people manage to fit in 40 hour work weeks as well.  I used to be a workaholic and still have a life.  It seems remarkable to me now.

I want to get back to my peaceful life of painting funky furniture and having fun for a while.  December is shaping up to be a pleasantly sociable month: three sketch booking classes left; a visit with pat and Julie this Friday evening; an open house at Art de la Paix on Saturday afternoon, and a neighbourhood dinner at Rosemary's on Saturday night.  I may also attend the Honey House's Christmas Open House on Sunday and the almost free buffet supper at The Mill on Monday.  Maggie, the nice Bernese Mountain Dog will be here from the 11th till the 14th, and Sharon and I are going to a djembe drumnming class on the 12th.  And then of course I will be gearing up for Christmas.

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