Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter! I have got it, but can I read it in time?

I have got it! The latest Harry Potter Installment! I have been avoiding the news, internet sites, and conversations that might ruin this final foray into the world of Hogworts, Muggles, enchantments and spells. If I didn’t have a little boy to take care of I would insert a catheter, hook myself up to an IV and lock myself in my room to read. However I do have a little guy, one who is sharking around my legs as I write this (it is bottle time).

Instead, I will read it in installments, minutes stolen during naptime, between loads of laundry and supper preparations. Anyone want a baby for a few days? Ok, 24 hours, that is all I would need. Anyone?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Weddings and Funerals

Weddings and Funerals. The two biggies. All too often these two signposts mark a time in my life when I hop on a plane to be with family. This time it was my Grammy’s funeral and as much as I love being here, it has been difficult. It hurts me to say goodbye, but it hurts more to watch my grandfather try to mend his broken heart. She was the matriarch who kept the family grounded, the sun around which we all revolved, the love of my Granddad’s life. But Grandma was in a lot of pain, and I would not have her back to see her suffer again. Not just so she could ease our pain.

I thought I was done blogging about this, I logged in with another topic pretty well flushed out, but I couldn’t stick with it. This is the direction that I still seem to be pulled in. I was looking at our itinerary for our return trip back to TO when it occurred to me that another visit is drawing to a close, and that I won’t be back for another year. Unless there is another funeral and I fear that is possible. Granddad seems so lost.

It would be nice to be here “just for a visit” but it is so damn expensive to fly here. Cripes, it is cheaper to fly to the UK than to fly to Newfoundland. That burns me. We should be able to fly within our own country more cheaply than to travel out of it. I remember one Christmas my husband and I tried to book flights home- it was going to cost us $2500! Man, I couldn’t sell a kidney for that price. So no, the odd flick home just for a visit is as rare as an honest car salesman. No, most often we are going to a funeral or a wedding.

Thankfully, there are some weddings on the horizon- and I know they are important to my Granddad. He is looking forward to them; he is keeping on for them. My cousin Stephanie is getting married August in PEI. Stephanie with her beautiful curly brown hair, I used to covet those soft ringlets as a child. Little Stephanie I remember as a pretty little thing, is now a beautiful young woman. We were talking at the funeral about how we spent hours making tissue paper flowers for Aunt Catherine’s wedding.

And Kimmie! Another stunningly beautiful cousin (Ahem, it seems everyone in my family is blessed with good looks, I am not sure how that particular gene sequence skipped me but it did) She is doing the deed in October. She is in the final stages of planning now and when we spoke last week her eyes were bright with excitement. Kim’s sister Nicole is expecting a baby in the fall and I know Granddad will want to see the little one. When I visit with Granddad now I always work these events into our conversation and I can see him brighten, come alive again. And when he holds his great grandson Wilson, his smile and laugh illuminates all, and suddenly that dull ache seems to ease a little.

Life finds a way of keeping you going, even when you just don’t seem to have it in you. We do have to say goodbye, and it does hurt. But we also get to say: “Congratulations to the Bride and Groom!” and “Welcome little one!”

Yes, life finds a way and for that I am grateful. Good Luck Stephanie, Kim, and Nicole. Love you all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Good-Bye Grammy

In my Grandma’s House

In my Grandma’s house
is a book bound in black
paper clippings live between yellowed pages
an outline of lives lived; marriages made
babies born and passings.

In my Grandma’s house
pictures of children now grown
visual chronicle of decades past
a timeline of connections; families made
grandchildren born and loved.

In my Grandma’s house
the smell of baking bread
jam-jams, pancakes and baked beans.
A line of stitches and sweaters made
knitted mitts and warmth.

In my Grandma’s house
a window opens to the apple tree
while fragrant blossoms scent the breeze
the skyline of Birch reach upward, prayers made;
taken by the wind and answered.

In my Grandma’s house
a book bound in black
paper clippings lie between aging pages
outlines lives she loved, memories made
and now it marks her passing.

Clara Margaret Browne March 10th 1929- July 9th 2007

I love you Grammy

Monday, July 9, 2007

Crowds line highway for fallen soldiers

You know, just when I think this province has nothing redeeming about it, something happens and I find myself stepping back and re-evaluating things, and perhaps cutting the Big Smoke a little slack.

Yesterday, overpasses along Hwy. 401 were again lined with a sea of red and white as hundreds of people gathered to honour the six soldiers killed in Afghanistan last week. They held Canadian Flags aloft, and draped them over the side of the overpass; they saluted, clapped and cheered the six hearses as they broke into view; a moving ribbon of black on the horizon.

This group of individuals was composed of Toronto paramedics, police, parents of soldiers overseas, and dozens of average citizens who thought it was important to take time out to thank and honour those who served their community abroad with their sacrifice.

To date, 66 Canadians and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002. Each time they come back, Canadians see the same sad rituals of the repatriation ceremony: stoic presence of politicians, the soldiers carrying caskets and trying to keep their emotions in check, family members who cling to each other as they watch each coffin unloaded and brought to the hearse, the salutes, and the tears. The lament for the young, brave, men and women whose lives were extinguished under stars they do not recognize.

At least we see it, and remember the cost of this mission. In the US, the government prohibits photographs of the coffins of U.S. troops returning home. They have the cost of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq counted down to the cent, but the human cost is taboo. While many Americans are appalled by this policy, it seems that coverage of Paris Hilton’s time in jail gets more media attention.

I have a friend from Newfoundland, Jeff Hogg, who has been to Afghanistan. He is among the lucky ones who have returned. Scarred, forever changed, but alive. He and his wife both know if the mission continues they will be sent back. It makes me ill to think that one day I could be joining those people on the overpass, saying goodbye to a childhood friend, but I am grateful too. Grateful that we have such selfless people in this country, people who continually serve, people who leave their lives; their loves to keep us out of harms way. I am grateful that I live in a province that can take time out of their busy lives to give a moment of thanks for their sacrifice. Grateful that I live in a nation that does not shirk away from the most devastating cost of war: the horrible price paid for peace and security.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Castle in the Heart of the City.

As much as I hate Toronto, it is one of the larger outposts of Newfoundland’s Empire and deserves some respect. When we first moved to Ontario we lived in SkyPro apartments on the corner of Bloor and Jarivs. That was a bit of an experience. It is just a little ways up from Cabbage Town which is actually a really pretty spot, however, in the area between there and SkyPro things got a little dicey. At night the “gangstas” from Sherborne St., the hookers, the trannies, the homeless, and the homeless trannies all came out to play (they mostly come out at night…mostly). And the noise! The incessant thrum of traffic as millions of cars made their way to the DVP, the constant barrage of sirens, the yelling, the screech of tires, the thunder of crashes, the pulse and hum of a mass of humanity below.

I was on the phone home quite a bit in those days. My own digital umbilical cord. I remember a day when it was uncharacteristically quiet; things seemed sort of still. It made me think of home and so I called mom. We had been talking only for a few minutes when she and asked: “Where are you?” “I am at the apartment” I replied. To which she answered. "How come I don’t hear any sirens?

Ah TO! The Big Smoke. It is a great place to visit, but I don’t want to live there.
We started looking to move out of the city, and eventually we found a spot we could afford (barely) in Durham. And this is where we now live. However some of our closest friends still live in the city, and we visit them when we can.

Last weekend Julie and Karl invited us to go to a Renaissance Fair held at Casa Loma. Julie and Karl married there a few years ago (it was a magical wedding by the way, she was a beautiful bride, and the groom wasn’t half bad either).

We took the subway to Dupont and made our way up the sidewalk. You can see the edge of the gardens surrounding the castle as you approach, a long stone stairwell spirals its way up the grounds beckoning you in. We went around the long way because we had the little monster with us, and we did not want to hork him all the w
ay up there in his carriage.

It is an impressive thing to see this Castle emerge out of the grey and bleak of a busy city. It is odd too, to step off a subway, walk off a busy street and step back in time. That sense of time out of place was enhanced by the Renaissance Fair. Lords and Ladies strolled in the gardens. There was Merlin’s Ale (yum!) and Raspberry Mead (gah!) to drink. A falconer showed off his bird…er his falcon. There were shows to catch (I recommend “Men in Tights”), codpieces to stare at and wares to buy. In addition to that you could explore the massive Casa Loma, and its beautiful gardens. The castle is a jewel in the middle of the city.

An expensive jewel at that.
Sir Henry Mill Pellatt bankrupted himself creating this marvel and it is the Kiwanis who take care of it now. If you ever find yourself in the Big City check out Casa Loma, they have a variety of events during the year, and movies are filmed (Parts of X-men and Chicago were shot there), heck you can be married at the Castle if you want! But whatever you decide don’t drink the Raspberry Mead! My taste buds haven’t grown back yet, but the hole in my cheek is filling in nicely.

*Thanks Julie for the pictures!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Newfoundland English- Oxymoron?

One of the things I am often told when people first figure out I am from Newfoundland, is that I don't have much of an accent. Ha! Like there is one, I often reply.

Newfoundland and Labrador English is often regarded as the most distinctive dialect of English in Canada. The kind most people often associate with Newfoundland is the accent you are subjected too by tired comedians, and Nissan X-Trail commercials . But the accent varies across the Rock (Newfoundland for the uninitiated), and The Big Land (Labrador).

Some Newfoundland dialects are similar to what one might hear in Ireland or parts of England (or a bizarre combination of both). Which makes sense as many came from these ports of call to fish and later settle the island. But we were also settled by the French; mostly on the Port or Port Peninsula on the west coast. The Basque, the Spanish, and the Scottish also threw their nets in the water, and they too contributed to the vast Newfoundland lexicon and accents.

I remember as a young kid going to Stephenville to visit family. There, I heard an accent I had never heard before, and haven't heard the like of since. It sort of sounds like an English-French hybrid with a little MicMac Indian thrown in just for shits and for kicks I mean.
People from this area with French and Micmac blood are sometimes referred to as jackie tars- not the nicest handle but there it is.

But it is the Irish /English combo that most people think of when they describe the "Newfie accent". This is what Jim Carrey was going for in his movie "A Series of Unfortunate Events". Mainlanders are famous for trying to use this accent (badly) when they find themselves in the company of a Newfoundland native and to make matters worse, Mainlanders will often use commonly known Newfoundland phrases while doing so. I blame Great Big Sea for a lot of it, if only because their hit song Whadd'ya at? (loosely translated: "How's it going?" or "What are you doing?") started a particularly dark time for me. I can't listen to that song now without wanting to pop someone in the nose. Dear God, every time I was introduced to someone new, the conversation would be the friggin' same:

"Hey Bob, I would like you to meet Nadine:"
"Hi there"
"She is from Newfoundland"

"Ahhh! " Big smiles "Whadd'ya at?"
It is at that point I usually look at them like they are a dog's deposit on my shoe and reply politely: "Sorry, I didn't catch that?"

I can be a bit of a bitch sometimes.

It is not that I am not proud of being a Newfoundlander or that I don't love the accents. I just hate the way it is used by others to make us feel like quaint little curiosities. Those poor uneducated country bumpkins who live on the land God gave to Cain. They proclaim us "the friendliest people in the world", and in the same breath "Not too bright though". Our funny little accents are often regarded as a backward corruption of "proper" English and encourages a perception by some people that we are somehow inferior. How ignorant.

We have a complex history that contributed to the way we developed our wonderful variety of dialects, our colorful lexicon and our quick jargon. We should be proud that we have something so unique and special. I am hoping we never lose it completely.

The people who created the Newfoundland Dictionary have made a great contribution to the preservation of this part of our heritage. For those of you who are interested, there is an online completion of a few of the words and phrases unique to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Until then me duckies, have a good one, eh?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

When we lived in Korea, my husband and I were asked a lot of questions about Canada, on topics ranging from the silly: "Does everyone have blond hair and blue eyes?" or "Does it always snow?" to the more political "Do you like the United States?" And sometimes we came across a Korean whose English was quite strong, and whose sense of the world was stronger, and we would get the digger: "How is Canada different from the United States?"

Oh man that was tough to answer, mostly because what makes us different
is so hard to define. People have joked about the Canadian verses American identity for years. Some people are adamant there is no difference. American journalist Richard Starnes quipped, "Canadians are generally indistinguishable from the Americans, and the surest way of telling the two apart is to make the observation to a Canadian." The definition of a Canadian offered by The Econmist in 1993 is: "an American
with healthcare and no guns".

We have the stereotypes to consider as well: the beer drinking, toque wearing, polite, lumberjacks, living in an Igloo in the middle of nowhere Canadians 'eh. And do we ever rage against those! Rick Mercer, Newfoundland's native son leads the charge of that peculiar war with his show Talking To Americans. Rick pretends to be a journalist in American cities asking passers-by for their opinions on factitious Canadian news stories. I think I almost laughed myself into hospital the night I watched him ask a Harvard professor to offer his congratulations to Canada for going with a 24 hr. day. Dear God, my sides ache just thinking about it.

I can't really laugh too hard, the stereotype game is played on both sides of the border- and it can get nasty. Our version of the United States is quite often as ignorant as the fodder offered to us. And you know, it really doesn't help us to define who we are by who we are not. Though Mike Myers wouldn't agree with me. Of his home and native land Mike said: "Canada is the essence of not being. Not English, not American, it is the mathematic of not being. And a subtle flavour - we're more like celery as a flavour." Come on Mike, we are a little more flavourful then celery!

So how should we define ourselves? I have my own sense of Canadianess that I developed in large part while I was in Korea. And it is personal to me. It is bitter and sweet, it is rooted in a strong sense of national pride, tempered with that oh so Canadian polite modesty. Ahem. But who am I to say?

I came across this today: and suddenly my Nasolacrimal ducts were leaking (not a lot, but enough). I think this sums us up quite beautifully. When you go to the site you will notice there are three options: you can listen to the whole thing, or read it, or you can watch a portion of it. If you would like my suggestion, I say listen while reading it and then watch it. Either way my friends, enjoy. And if you have a minute, tell me what being Canadian means to you.

Happy Canada Day!