My First Death

October 4, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

There are many first in our lives: first picture, first day of school, first confirmation, first love, first kiss, first heartbreak … the list goes on and on.

In this goth-filled month of Halloween, I want to talk to you about my first death. Not the first death I experienced – that would be my great-uncle’s death. His was the first funeral I attended at thirteen years of age.

I want to talk to you about the first death I noticed. I was young. She was young. When the undertaker’s daughter died, this was the first time I had heard of a child dying and it made me realize that I too was mortal, that I too would die.

I was eleven or twelve and she was younger (seven I think). She was born with a hole in her heart in a time and place where this was still a death sentence. I was born with a congenital heart murmur. We grew up in the same small town where everyone knew everyone else’s business. So even though I never met here I knew who she was and why she died.

Her funeral was in the Fall just after school had started. It was a Catholic funeral. I did not attend as I was not catholic. I heard that the coffin was small and white. I heard that she was buried with her favourite doll.

“What does a child take with them?”

Where did she go? What did she remember as she paused between life and death? After all these years (parents now gone also) who remembers her? I remember her but I cannot name her.

Mount Osare (Mount Doom/Mount Fear) is an extinguished volcano far in the north [of Japan], where the dead are said to pause before leaving the world completely. (p. 26) Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye By Marie Mutsuki Mockett; New York: W. W. Norton, 2015.

We all knew what she left behind. Grieving parents and a grieving small town. She was an only child. Her parents never had another. Her father was the local funeral director but I don’t know if this was a profession he entered into before or after her death. I knew him, many years later, when he was an old man and I was a young adult. His wife had already passed on by then. I didn’t know him well enough to ask him such questions.

We don’t talk about death. It is morbid. It is wrong. But I am the child who use to haunt graveyards and read tombstones. There is art in such places. There is nature. There is joy. There is laughter. There are children there both living and dead. Maxine, my best friend, and I use to wander through the local cemeteries learning local history and speculating about what our grown-up lives would be like.

Our ancestors use to picnic in graveyards before there were parks. They use to remember. They use to prepare and bury their own. Is this why the father become an funeral director or was he one before tragedy struck?

I think about things like this. I am morbid by nature. Maybe it’s all those fairy tales I read in my childhood. The ones with death and witches and ghosts and ghouls and the true fey, lurking, plotting death and destruction on us mere mortals.

I always wanted to live in a gigantic and ancient place. Houses like those featured in Six Feet Under and the book The Undertaker’s Daughter. Houses haunted both metaphorically and literally by the past.

Just as the funeral home was a house for both living and the dead, this house seemed to exist somewhere between the past and the present.

I often wandered through the old part of the house when no one else was home. It felt like eavesdropping on another era. (Chapter 15)

The Undertaker’s Daughter
by Kate Mayfield
New York: Gallery Books, 2015

October. Death. Memory.

Samhain. El Dios de Muertos.

All I ask is that you remember me.

SC Funeral Home 01

To Be Sure

I wouldn’t want to bring him back
from his permanent internment
even if I could
but I wouldn’t mind a visit now and then,
a trip down
to keep each other company.

(Beginning of a poem by Larry Sorkin; the remainder of the poem can be found at the front of The Undertaker’s Daughter by Kate Mayfield.)

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Travel Theme: Fruit

September 27, 2015 at 1:32 pm (Meme) (, , , , , , , , )


These are Concord grapes. They are my favourite fruit. We were lucky to be able to afford one basket each September when I was growing up. Welch’s uses them in their juices and jams which I also love and never got enough of growing up. We had to buy the things everybody liked.

Now that I am a grown-up (mostly), I buy what I want to eat. I’ve bought six baskets of grapes in the last four weeks and I have eaten them all!

If you want to show you love me – don’t say it with flowers – send me raspberries, concord grapes and chocolate.

Written for Ailsa’s weekly travel theme.


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Are Pirates Romantic?

September 19, 2015 at 8:15 am (Fun) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Today, September 19th, is Talk Like A Pirate Day.

dloweXMASPIRATESPara Abnormal Comic by Dave Lowe

Pirates were my first love then came cowboys. I yearned for wide, open spaces free from the conflict of the reality of school where I was tolerated or ignored. I wanted someone to rescue me and pirates seemed most up to the task. I wouldn’t have to make a decision. I could be kidnapped by a handsome, devilish rogue instead. It didn’t matter that I lived on the prairies about as far from the sea as one could get. It didn’t matter that pirates weren’t real (at least as far as I knew – we only got local news back before the internet told us everything we didn’t want to know)!

Pirates were handsome. Pirates were rogues. Pirates were devilish. They may be unkempt but were never smelly. They may be thieves but they had honor. A pirate code was a code of conduct for governing pirates. The pirates would draw up their own code which provided rules for discipline, division of stolen goods, and compensation for injured pirates. They took care of their own and once kidnapped, I would belong somewhere. I would be with people who wanted to be with me. (Lets just ignore rule six for now shall we)!

Open Sea

I’ve always been a sucker for devilish rogues with questionable morals. Rhett Butler is the man with the plan in Gone With the Wind. He knows what he wants and goes for it. Never mind the fact that I would run from a real man who acted like he did. I’d make him walk the plank and send him far away from me right quickly.

Though if he spoke to me like this, I think I would possibly swoon. Le sigh…

Dear Scarlett! You aren’t helpless. Anyone as determined and selfish as you are is never helpless. God help the Yankees if they should get you. — Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara

I want a man who sees me as strong and capable well also loving me passionately!

I want a man who is on my side, by my side, no matter what. Though may not quite to this extreme.

Oh, Christian, why do you always play such bad, bad boys?

Raft Hook

Ah, the romance of Piracy! They attack, they loot, they vanish. They steal jewels and hearts. We’ve been romanticizing them since 1879 if not before.

Who wouldn’t love a man whose best friends are monkeys and parrots?

And such monikers they had – Blackbeard, Bluebeard, Calico Jack!

“This heres me man, Calico Jack!”

They winter on tropical islands. They have adventures that require scavenger hunts and treasure maps. They have plenty of money to shower you with gowns and jewels. Their treasure chests contain numerous pieces of eight!

X marks what spot?

Land Ho!

Okay, do I want to ensnare a pirate’s heart or do I want to be a pirate
like Anne Bonny and Mary Read?

Remember talk like a pirate today and

follow me, follow me away to the sea!




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September 13, 2015 at 8:15 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Yellow Flower w Strawberries

This is my eldest sister’s garden in September.

Fall is officially here.

My flowers have frozen.

Hers have not and we only live five blocks apart!

Here is a pop of Yellow in a field of green.

Can you see the purple?

Can you find the strawberries?

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The Queen

September 6, 2015 at 8:15 am (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have a complicated relationship with the Queen.

I have a complicated relationship with the monarchy. I love the pomp and ceremony. The Queen waved at me once as her limo took a short cut through the bus mall where I was waiting for the bus. If her window was open, I could have reached over and shook her hand. This was an unexpected thrilling experience! I enjoy standing up and singing/shouting “God Save the Queen” even though I’m not sure how I feel about God either. It makes me feel proud. Patriotic, like I am part of something bigger and more important than just me.

I don’t think we should pay for any of the monarchy’s expenses when they visit Canada. I’m happy that Prime Minister Trudeau brought the constitution back home.

I admired the Queen Mum immensely. You could tell from her demeanor that she had survived many horrible years as a royal. She was over 100 years old when she died and next year Liz is turning ninety. There will be celebrations in June even though she was born April 21, 1926. She’s almost an Aries like me. I aspire to live as long a life though my life will not be as interesting!

This royal family has been the face of the monarchy all of my life. They are the epitome of the stiff upper lip I was raised under. We keep calm and carry on even though we are not British. My family is Scottish, Polish, Canadian!


Lilibet has always been in the back of my consciousness. The royal portrait (below) hung in my grandparent’s home and now hangs in mine. It shows King George VI, Queen Elizabeth before she was the Queen Mum, Princess Margaret about age five and Princess Elizabeth around age eleven. I imagine that this was the official portrait when George became King after the abdication in 1936. I don’t know if this is true. My Polish grandparents had the picture hanging in their house but I never discussed royalty with them so I don’t know why they hung this picture or where it came from. I do know how relieved they were to leave, in the 1930s, an unsettled Poland for a new life in Canada.

Like most young girls, I was interested in princesses but I wasn’t into the Disney princesses. I wanted to read stories about real princesses. In my teens, I read everything I could find about Princess Anastasia of Russia. Her mother was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain.

I sped read through the Royal Diaries series of books and got a vague sense of the history of British Kings And Queens. I explored what I could find on Mary Queen of Scots and Lady Jane Grey who was Queen for nine days. There was no internet when I was growing up and no fictitious royal series on TV. Royal enthusiasts have it so much easier now.

Because I am a history buff, I was aware that Queen Elizabeth worked as a mechanic during WWII and went out into the crowds on VE day with her sister and their mates. The Queen had mates!

She seemed to be a normal girl. She seemed to be just like me.

Royal Portrait

I’ve followed the Queen’s trails and tribulations. I was there for Anne’s wedding. The Queen’s 25th wedding anniversary family portrait taken in 1972 looks remarkably the same as the picture taken around the same time for my grandparent’s fiftieth.

I’ve been there for her silver jubilee, her golden jubilee and her diamond jubilee. I missed the coronation (I wasn’t born yet) but I vicariously experience it through video – both news reel real and fictitious. The new Doctor Who, series 2: episode seven, centers on a typical London neighbourhood on the Queen’s coronation day.

Royalty fascinates me. A hundred year’s ago I would have been a tea drinking member of the IODE (if I could have been).

Keep Calm

The Queen is a countrywoman through and through. She loves horses, dogs, and vacationing at her estate in Balmoral, Scotland.

She reminds me of her great great grandmother Victoria who also loved Scotland. Both monarchs are women, like my ancestors, who believed in old-fashion values like duty, discipline and self-control.

Victoria, who died at age 82 after celebrating her diamond jubilee four years earlier, was not supposed to be Queen – her father had two older brothers.

Elizabeth shouldn’t have been Queen. Her father’s older brother was to reign and produce heirs but he abdicated instead.

Isn’t it strange that two women who shouldn’t have been Queens are our longest reigning royals to date? When will Queen Elizabeth II have reigned for longer than Queen Victoria?

Queen Victoria reigned 23,226 days 16 hrs & 23 minutes. She superseded her uncle King William IV and became queen at 18 on June 20, 1837. She reigned until Jan 2, 1901.

On Wednesday, September 9 at about 5.30 pm GMT (12:30 pm CST), Queen Elizabeth II will have been on the throne for 63 years, seven months and two days. She became queen at 25 when her father died on Feb 6, 1952.

She does not plan to celebrate this milestone publicly.

I plan to raise a glass of wine in celebration and read one of the myriad books featuring the Queen.

Perhaps I will reread Mrs. Queen Takes the Train!

On Wednesday, raise a glass to “The Queen”




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Canning Season

August 30, 2015 at 8:15 am (Memoir) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Harvest is upon us. It is canning season. I have not canned in a long time.

Growing up, I helped my mother can & freeze & store our harvest every late summer and into September. This was the food that would sustain us all winter when the garden was finished with. This is how we survived.


I do not garden now. In fact, I hate gardening, and all the other outdoor maintenance involved with having a lawn and flower beds, with an unbridled passion. I remember the hard work, the bugs, the sore muscles and the dirt forever under my fingernails. These are not pleasant memories.

However, I do like the harvest. I will haunt farmer’s markets for outdoor produce to enjoy in the moment but I do not can or freeze even though I do remember how much better garden produce tastes. The problem I have with canning is that we were not allowed to enjoy the produce in the present when I was growing up – things had to be stored up for WINTER. Everything, it seemed, was always saved to be enjoyed later.

My father (absent) would take my two older sisters with him to B. C. to pick fruit and they would bring back cases of cherries, pears and peaches that would have to be canned RIGHT NOW!

The peas would need to be frozen as soon as they were ripe.

The potatoes were dug and sent straight down to the cold room.


We picked pails of raspberries to be frozen. This was my favourite harvest chore because I could hide in the raspberry canes and eat and pick. I always felt I got enough raspberries for both me and the freezer.

We headed out to the bush to pick gooseberries and other fruit.

I didn’t mind that all the rhubarb got frozen – it was too sour no matter how you prepared it.

But I wanted to eat my fill of peas straight off the vine. I wanted to eat too much butter dripped fresh corn. I wanted to gorge myself on fruit until I burst.

I wanted.

I got what I needed. I got enough to eat, all year, because my mother is a gardener and an ant. I did not inherit the gardening gene. I will cook and clean and can but still I feel guilty every time my mom or sister commiserate about their gardens.

My sister canned peaches, tomatoes and cucumbers last weekend. They were all lined up, pints and quarts, beside her stove. I should have taken a picture. The jars were bright and full of shining red, green and yellow goodness.

Why is it I always see what I can not do instead of what I can? Next year, I plan to purchase a farm fresh box so that I will get both the benefit of good food and the chance to help local gardeners do what they love to do (and I do not).

I need to find that fine line between want and need. I want to be able to enjoy fresh food all year long. I want to stop feeling guilty over doing what I like to do instead of doing what everyone else thinks I should do!

I hope everyone has the harvest they enjoy this Lammas season.

Stirling Castle_Kitchen

This weekend is the 10 year anniversary of Katrina. This is the best book that I have ever read on the subject.

I’ve never been to New Orleans. I hope one day to visit.

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That Stings?

August 23, 2015 at 10:08 am (Book Commentary) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Franz Kafka said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you?


Books don’t sting me anymore (I’ve become too numb to emotional pain) but they do make me think.

I read more fiction than non-fiction. Right now, I’m really not in the mood for thinking. I just want to be passively entertained.

But yesterday I finished a book that was both entertaining and educational. In spite of myself, it made me think.

How Music Got Free is a riveting story of obsession, music, crime, and money, featuring visionaries and criminals, moguls and tech-savvy teenagers. It’s about the greatest pirate in history, the most powerful executive in the music business, a revolutionary invention and an illegal website four times the size of the iTunes Music Store.

Perhaps this book bit and stung my mind a little bit. It didn’t hurt but it did make me think. It also annoyed me slightly as well. The author, Stephen Witt, argues that it was his generation that was primarily responsible for music piracy and though I don’t dispute his point it aggrieves me that he dismisses the older generation as being too computer illiterate to have participated in the crime.

(Is this a confession? Don’t we all have questionable MP3 files stored on our various devices. Even some of us so-called old people.)

I liked the book. It made me think in spite of myself. I recommend you read it and decide for yourself how much piracy affected the way we consume music!


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Tattoo Me!

August 16, 2015 at 8:15 am (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Daily Prompt from August 5th asks:

Do you have a tattoo? If so, what’s the story behind your ink? If you don’t have a tattoo, what might you consider getting emblazoned on you skin?

and this week’s photo challenge is “creepy“!

I don’t have a tattoo, but if I did it would portray something a lot of people find creepy.

To many people bats are frightening, eerie, disturbing, menacing, and literally hair-raising –

even the cutesy Halloween bats shown here!

I’ve coveted this tattoo ever since I saw it on the Contrariwise: Literary Tattoos’ blog (unfortunately no longer supporting pictures). That was way back in 2010.

I have twin nephews who go all out with tattoos – sporting full sleeves and elaborate back & even face tattoos.

Many of my other relatives (brother, nieces) also sport the odd tattoo.

I won’t be getting a tattoo anytime soon. I avoid pain.

But if I did get a tattoo it would be inspired by this:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a teatray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!

And it would look like this (not my picture – it was originally on Contrariwise so I do not know who to credit. If it is yours and you want it removed email me and I will).


I wonder how painful it would be to get a tattoo on one’s foot (and just how expensive this design would be)?

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Travel Theme: Grey

August 9, 2015 at 12:58 pm (Meme) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Here are some seasonal additions to Ailsa’s new travel theme; which this week is Grey/Gray. I’m Canadian – we consider either spelling correct. It makes spelling bees easier!

I was in the city yesterday. My sister and I have an annual tradition of going to the Fringe and the Ex’s Saturday night free grandstand concert. Before the fun started, we went to a craft store where the pre-Halloween decorations were out. You need time to create the perfect scary display! But, then again, the Halloween candy is also out (who buys it this early? I would have it all eaten before Halloween if I bought it now).


Seeing all the orange, black and grey has me anticipating Halloween and Fall. I want a shorter summer and a longer autumn!


The greyish skeletons remind my sister of death and she fears them. I see fun and mystery in them. I see dancing skeletons and ghosts yearning to tell their stories to all willing to listen. She sees reality. I see story.

Black, Grey, White

I like the raven pillow here. It makes me want to going around murmuring “Nevermore” under my breath. The tombstones dream of becoming sinister props in a fake graveyard. They yearn for pithy says.

Reflected Clouds

The day started out gray. By the time we hit the festivals the sun was out and bright. There was a nice breeze flowing through the grandstand in the evening (it kept the mosquitoes away. Hooray!).

We traveled home in the dark and encountered greyish northern lights.

I wondered how they would top the Pirates and skeletons and moonlight, because that’s a pretty cool concept. ~Orlando Bloom

That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.
― Ray Bradbury

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A Year’s Worth

August 2, 2015 at 8:15 am (Blogging) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I published my 365th post last week and just wrote an amazing blog post about blogging that I lost as I was trying to save it!!

I don’t think I can recreate it.

It’s been a hard year. The blogging has been okay but life has been annoying.

There have been lessons learned – like always copy your words before you hit save draft!

I’ve been blogging since September 22, 2008. My one goal when I started was to blog weekly. I’ve done that. This is the first time I’ve lost a completely written post. I am feeling frustrated. I am eating while writing. It calms me. Thankfully, I am eating watermelon which is healthy. (The cat thinks she wants to try some). Damn, it was a good post – the ones that get away always are.

What happens in a year?

This is what I write about. My life. My interests. I write memoir. I write using other people’s challenges and memes. I write about yearly occurrences – expect another International Pirate’s Day post in September.

I write for fun. I write for obligation – if only, obligation to my self. In the beginning, my posts were longer and more structured. Now I am more comfortable writing off-the-cuff (like now!).

I can write off a frustrating occurrence like losing a damn good post and keep on. This is good. Especially if it means I eat less junk food along the way.

I write to learn. After seven years, I’ve gotten better at photography, writing and thinking. What inspires me. Today, I inspire me. I lost. I went on. I recreated something. I didn’t give up. Yay me!

I write, therefore I am.

I write in spite of it all (the lost post WAS better).

Birthday Cake

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