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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Expecting company...

Such nice mild weather this week. It was zero last night and only minus four this morning. This is a good day for a hike in the bush. Snowshoeing sounds good. I am enjoying some time off and getting the place ready for some company. Jenn, Scott, Tyler, Nathan and Victoria will be arriving tomorrow. Wooohoo. Got to pick up some of that American bottled water ... I think they call it Budweiser.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another really nice Christmas!

Finally back home in Timmins after three wonderful days with Jenn and her family. We sure had a full house, but Christmas dinner was nice because we had TWO dinners. One at Jenn and Scott's place and then a Boxing Day Dinner with the extended Alexander family at a rented hall. It was perfect. I had time to snap plenty of photos. There is one of the children on Christmas morning, just moments before they were let loose on the gifts. On Christmas night I went for a walk in the yard and snapped a photo of the house. Scott and Jenn live in the country and it's a beautiful setting. Tyler and I were playing in the yard Sunday and he had fun getting buried up to his neck in snow. He is very entertaining.

On the way home today, the forest looked amazing with all the frost and snowflakes clinging to the branches. So I snapped a few more shots. In one photo, if you click on it, you can see the individual snowflakes. And I even snapped a photo of the truck in the snow on a sideroad... A really nice winter day in the North.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What a change eh?

Several of us noticed it at the same time. It was Christmas morning in Val Caron and there was Jennifer standing at the sink doing dishes after our Christmas breakfast. What a wonderful change from this time last year when Jenn was sick and had to be brought home from the hospital to spend Christmas with the family. Last year she was in a wheelchair and several times during the day, Jenn was in bed regaining her strength. And so it goes and the world is a better place today. At dinner last night, Scott made a very nice toast to family and good health. Very aprorpriate. Christmas in Val Caron was excellent. Scott, Jenn, Tyler and Nathan are hosting Victoria, Christine, Demetrios, Don, Denise and myself. It is really a full house. The coffee and Bailey's tastes nice this morning. The Weather is mild and Tyler is winning the hockey game on the Wii system. Don just arrived back at the house with a big order from Tim Hortons, so it's time to enjoy breakfast. Cheers to all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A shaggy dog story!

Every now and then, while working in news, there is a happy story. I had one Friday when firefighters rescued a little dog at a fire scene.
The dog was unconscious, overcome by the smoke. It looked dead. The woman who owned the dog was clearly overcome with grief. But several minutes later, after giving the dog oxygen and CPR, firefighters presented the woman with a very alive little dog. I smiled all day! The full story here is on my news website.
(Click on the pic to see it larger)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Funny comments!

If you check the comments at the bottom of the Dec. 13 post, you will see the following:
"You forgot to mention the highlight of one of the Christmas parties was the pulling fire alarm and the arrival of the fire trucks at the base gym, and better yet was that once we all saw Debra the first time we did not believe she was a girl as she had a buzz cut for a haircut."
Well the only other person who would know that would be little brother Ronald, or big brother Gary. Gary doesn't own a computer. Ha ha ha.
Well I do remember both incidents. Although I honestly cannot remember who pulled the fire alarm, I do remember that Dad was quite embarrassed to discover it was one his children. That means it was either me or Ron. And it was at the airbase in Portage la Prairie. Gary would never do such a thing. But it was sure a lot of fun from a kid's perspective. I remember some years later when Dad mentioned that the base brass was terrified for a few moments at the thought that a fire had broken out in the base gym where hundreds of children were inside meeting Santa Claus. And as for the comments about Debra, I absolutely remember the first time we saw her. She was as bald as could be, and we brothers could not understand how a little sister could not have hair. Ronald was the first one to mention it and we laughed and laughed.

I'm confused about this one ...

NASA this week reported that the spacecraft Voyager-1 has reached the edge of our solar system. I have to admit, I think space travel is kinda cool. It has taken 33 years. Voyager was sent out to gather data that is supposed to help scientists determine how our universe began. Okay, I'm confused. So let's say they do figure out that the universe began one day billions and billions of years ago. Okay... so what was there the day before? And what about the day before that? I think this is one of those things the human mind just can't figure. (Photo Credit: NASA JPL)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas memories woke me up!

It’s early Monday morning, 4:25 a.m., and like any writer I am rushing to get these thoughts down because they woke me up and I don’t want to forget them. Besides, I can’t sleep now because all these memories of Christmas have come pouring back. Actually it was pipe tobacco that woke me. I was dreaming of Christmas when I was a child. It could be the fact that my own place is in the midst of getting “Christmassy”… I don’t have a tree up, or any decorations, but my dining room table is covered with wrapping paper, scotch tape and there is a big Rubbermaid box full of gifts that I will be taking with me to Sudbury in about ten days time. I am sure I will share some memories with my grandsons.
But I was dreaming and as I gradually began waking, all these thoughts rushed in so here goes with some good memories of Christmas.
These go way back to the days when it was just Mom and Dad and Gary and me. We were living in Sydney, Nova Scotia. I can barely remember, but I do smell pipe tobacco. Both my grandfathers smoked pipes and I remember that Christmas was a time of seeing “grandpa and grandma” a lot more than usual. In our lives, there was Archie, who was grandpa on my Mom’s side. He didn’t like being called grandpa, so we called him Archie. Then there was Grandpa Gillis, on my Dad’s side. His name was Neil, but everyone called him Papa or Neil D. He always had the fragrance of pipe smoke, which I came to enjoy. Pipe smoke and wool sweaters. His tobacco was different than most. It was a stick that reminded me of a big piece of licorice. He would take his pocketknife and carve tiny slivers of tobacco off the stick and then put them into his pipe. I remember once he put his knife down, and like any nosy little boy I picked it up. Well! Neil D. growled at me. I swear it was a growl, but as I think of it now, it was probably because he had the pipe in his mouth. He said something I could barely understand, but he had fierce eyes that would stare you down. I do remember Christmas in the country, in Grand Mira, smelled different. I think it was the wood smoke smell. Freshly cut balsam or spruce. And cinnamon. I know that Grandma Gillis liked to make cinnamon rolls and that was always a nice smell. And the woodsmoke smell came from the big stove in the kitchen and there was another stove, just for heating, in the “front room”, which was the sitting room at the front of Grandma’s house. When we kids were sent to bed upstairs, there was a bedroom directly above the front room. The bedroom had a hole in the floor, under the bed, designed to let the heat rise. I remember crawling under the bed and putting my face in the hole and listening to all the grown-ups chatter and laugh down below. The other thing about the house in Mira was that it had no indoor bathroom and we got to pee in the snow a lot. The women used the outhouse beside the big tree.
The house in Sydney was different because it was on a street packed closely beside dozens of other houses. I could never figure out how my parents knew how to find it among the hundreds and hundreds of houses in Sydney, but once we pulled up to the front of the house, I knew right away it was where Grandma (MacLean) and Archie lived. Archie’s tobacco smelled sweeter than Neil Ds. Also Archie did not wear wool sweaters as much as Neil D. Archie wore flannel shirts with wide suspenders. He also talked more, but I could rarely understand what he was saying. Every now and then he would shout, Tina, Tina! That was Grandmas name. She would bring him tea and cookies. He drank the tea. I ate the cookies.
The Sydney house at Christmas smelled different. It had more of a smell of baking. I remember the smell of tea biscuits. And the smell of butter melting on the biscuits hot from the oven. And it was warm, very warm. I think it is because there was a coal stove in the kitchen. In the basement there was a big coal boiler. The men would spend time in the basement talking, while the women would spend time in the kitchen and the dining room. Archie’s basement was big, well; it was big from a little kid’s perspective. It had a concrete floor and massive wooden beams. Beams that went from floor to ceiling and then beams that went across the basement ceiling. It was dark too. There were a couple of bare lightbulbs. But the men would go there to smoke and drink. I remember asking my dad what he was drinking. Archie said it was buttermilk and all the men laughed. It was moonshine of course.
The house in Sydney also sounded different. There was music. There was a piano in the living room. Usually Gary and I would pound on it just to hear the keys, but other people would play and sing. I cannot remember who.
The next Christmas I remember was in France and those are my first memories of Santa. I don’t think I quite understood who Santa was except that all the children had to go and sit on his lap. I do remember not being too excited about that. I know Gary was excited. So I guess I went along with it. If it was okay with Gary, then it was okay with me. There were hundreds of children. We were all in a massive building, which I realize now was a hangar on the airbase. I can remember the faint smell of jet fuel and it is likely one of the reasons why I still like that smell. It was always one of those comfort smells for me. I can pick up the smell aviation fuel anywhere. I think it comes from living on airbases.
The other Christmas memory from France was my first ever memory of snow. I think it was special because I was told that snow was not always common where we lived, but getting snow that first year caused quite a bit of excitement for people. I remember Gary teaching me how to slide on it with our shoes. We didn’t have snowboots in France. Another memory is that my Dad would take out an Oh Henry bar, put it on the table and cut it up into bit sized pieces for us with his pocketknife. Dad wasn’t being nice. He was just being cheap.
My next Christmas memories after that were in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. We went to two big Christmas parties that year, one at the church and one at the airbase. I couldn’t figure out why the Santas were different, but they were.
That is the Christmas I learned about Eaton’s. Mom ordered a whole pile of stuff from the Eaton’s catalogue and one winter day a massive cardboard box was delivered to our house. I remember Mom opening the box and taking out all sorts of things. There were dishes, pots, pans, snowboots, winter coats, pants and shirts and socks … it was overwhelming. Apparently, that same box brought our Christmas toys, but I didn’t know it then.
The other thing about Portage la Prairie was the cold. Our house was always warm, but whenever our big front door was opened, there would be a blast of frigid winter air that rolled right into our kitchen. That was also the Christmas I remember learning about Christmas trees and that they were somehow special.
I was the first person to wake up Christmas morning. I knew that I was supposed to go to the tree. So I did. It was great. There were all sorts of gifts. I couldn’t read names very well, or maybe I didn’t want to read names. Either way, I opened most of the gifts and started playing with the toys. When my brothers (Ronald had been born in France) awoke and came downstairs, I was quite protective of all my new possessions.
Once Mom woke up and came downstairs, she set things straight and I discovered I had to share all these new toys with my brothers. Our house always smelled of turkey stuffing at Christmas. That is still a comfort smell for me.
Some days later, Gary and I were playing outside when we discovered a Christmas tree in a snowbank. Wow, what a find. We knew that Christmas trees were special for some reason, so we decided to drag our prize home. It was an effort for two boys to drag the tree. You can imagine our delight when we discovered more and more of these prized trees discarded all over the neighbourhood. It took us a few hours, but before long, Gary and I were the proud owners of about 25 Christmas trees which we stashed in our back yard. Mom and Dad laughed about it, but insisted we take the trees back out to the snowbank on the street. Somewhere there is a photo that Dad snapped of Gary and myself with all our trees.
That's the same winter that Debra was born. It wasn't long after Christmas, but I remember Dad saying we all got a new baby sister for Christmas. I also remember the hospital was next to a lake and Dad drove the car out onto the ice so we could see the hospital and wave at Mom in the window.
Some years later when I became an adult, I had more interesting Christmas memories. One of the best was bringing my own family to Mira for Christmas. I enjoyed that. Grandma’s old house was gone, but we all had dinner at Sadie and Allen’s house. I remember my children being amazed that Grandma would save the Christmas wrapping paper, carefully folding it and putting it away for another year. I also remember playing a game of Trivial Pursuit with my cousins. The best part was when we got stumped on some answers; Grandma would give us the right answer. We all thought we were so smart, but Grandma would amaze us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Day Jenn

Today is Jennifer’s birthday. It doesn’t matter her age, I will always think of Jenn as the prettiest little girl who grew into a beautiful young woman with a fabulous family.
Even though she is a grown-up now, it’s always fun to chat with her because her ideas are usually fresh and different and young.
One of my favourite singers wrote a song many years ago when Jenn was a baby. You can hear the song on You Tube.
Here are the words.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

~Bob Dylan, 1974

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hair today, gone tomorrow!

Talkshow guy David Letterman likes to make fun of the fact that he is losing his hair. That was certainly brought home to me this week when a friend sent me a photo be snapped last week while I was at a munching away at a buffet. Pretty soon I won’t need a comb, just a polishing cloth!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Enjoying December

It's a nice winter night in Timmins. I am wrapping gifts and enjoying the warmth of Tennessee ... in a fine crystal glass of course. I am wrapping some stuff for the kids and it's fun to imagine how much we will all enjoy Christmas morning. It has been snowing all day here, but that's to be expected in Timmins. Winter is certainly settling in. I think I will be out snowshoeing soon. The past few days have been nice. I had a good chat with Gary on Friday. It was his birthday, so that was nice and we got got all caught up. On Saturday I was on the local Christmas telethon, which was broadcast on the Bell satellite, so I talked with Neil and Jennifer to let them know. So that was good. We went late into the evening, but it was fun. I slept in today to 10:00 a.m. Wow. I decided to do a bit of gift shopping late in the day to avoid the crowds. The roads were in rough shape and it took about 20 minutes to drive to the mall. But when I got there I got out of the truck and realized I left my wallet in another coat! Nothing to do but laugh about it, drive home, grab my wallet and head out again. Only this time, I gassed up and grabbed a few groceries. I bought some President's Choice crab cakes. Wow! They were excellent. Maybe good things happen for a reason.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A canoe and a cigar?

Welcome to December. Today is my first anniversary of apartment living. I think I am okay with it. I don't always remember dreams, but today I did. I was paddling a canoe on the Amazon River in a gentle rainfall and smoking a really, really good cigar! Wow, where did THAT come from? All I know is that it's two guilty pleasures I can't enjoy right now. So there I was paddling along and enjoying a wonderful cigar when my radio alarm-clock blasted me awake to the sounds of CBC World Report. So I hit the snooze bar and enjoyed another nine minutes in dreamland. I am awake now enjoying coffee and adding to the blog ... at least I think I'm awake.