Sunday 23 November 2008

Try It, You'll Like It / Party Re-cap

I have just discovered - in "Urban Peasant" fashion - that Nairn's Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits (while excellent just on their own) are even better when you put a slice of provolone on top. Mmmm, so good. This came about experimentally today after thinking of a time when Bunny told me to try some cheddar on a Digestive Biscuit. Also good, though - this was a touch more Becky style - as full of flavor in both the cheese and biscuit department, and the result - a party in my mouth. Ah, James Barber would be proud.

Anyway - had an excellent tea party yesterday at my good friend Angelique's house. It was a "going away tea". We posted it on facebook, I invited my 600 friends (much to Angeliques shock and horror) - haha. About 17 people confirmed they would definitely come, and about 10 people - including myself, Angelique and Rick (the hosts) and my parents showed up. (most of whom had not confirmed) That turned out about how I thought. Nobody ever follows through with their commitment to show up for these things. However - it turned out fantastic!!! Some of my MOST favorite people on the planet turned up - including Dale - who stayed all day - I'm honored to say. One HUGE surprise was my friend from High School - Jakub showed up. I haven't seen him in 15 years!!! It was so great to see him. Also a collection of some of my most favorite peeps. Thanks so much for showing up and seeing me off my friends. I had 6 cups of tea whilst sitting there - all different kinds, and Angelique made a lovely assortment of cookies - had my first Christmas Shortbread yesterday. Sorry to say - friends - I don't have any time for 1:1 goodbyes, so - you'll have to visit me in Scotland if you want to see me again. That's great though - come and visit - it will be fun. Yeah - so things are coming along, and I'm getting more and more excited about the move. I guess I should look into getting some furniture. I may have a line on a bed - waiting to hear back from my friend on that one. I guess though - it will take me a little while to get all the little knick knacks sorted that makes up a home. As of today - there's 16 sleeps. I really need to get on with some of my projects that I've been holding on to. Can't do them after the move. Today - I will be scanning pictures - and later - doing a little Yoga. (Must try to burn off yesterday's calories) I also went to Kaly and Andy's Crepe party last night, and had an excellent girly gab session with Kaly, Birdie and Candia. Good times. Kaly's having a baby - so we were talking about that and all it entails; all that I have to look forward to - some day. Gosh - some things - I'm really going to miss, but it will be all worth it as I move forward and make new memories. It's time to do so.

15 YEARS!!!! Reunited. Thanks for the surprise visit Jakub.

Me and Valena - I'll miss you - but you need to come and visit.

Me and my Brother from another Mother - Logan - who is going to visit and celebrate Hogmanay next year.

The host and hostess of the tea party - Angelique and Rick - I'll miss you lots my friends - thanks again for the great send-off.

Some of the best girls ever - Kaly, Birdie, Me and Candia.

Friday 21 November 2008

Book Review: Long Way Down - John O'Groats To Cape Town by Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman

I love any good story about a journey...

I also think Male Bonding is the cutest thing on the planet. There's nothing more endearing than two "mates" having a great hug after a long journey together. Collectively women - go "awwww". Anyway, as much as I do love that part of the story, I just love the whole story altogether. Long Way Down is Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's book-chronicle of their tv series filmed journey from John O'Groats (the very tip of mainland Scotland) to Cape Town (the very tip of South Africa). It's funny, you know when I read the first book collaboration by Ewan and Charley - "Long Way Round" I was stuck in my B&B room sick with a cold in Dundee. Now - here I am - going there again in 19 days. The first journey was so worth reading about that I HAD to pick this one up - especially since they traveled the entire distance (North to South) of such a wonderful place such as Africa. It's like a Pilgrimage - only Ewan and Charley did it on Motorbikes. Haha. Life is one giant Pilgrimage really, and I think that the main reason I love a good story about the journey is because it's like a miniature version of life. When I was a missionary (and all former missionaries probably could tell you the same thing), we referred to the entire mission in terms of a lifetime. You arrived, you were a greenie (or a newborn), you had a Dad or a Mom (a trainer), you reached a hump day (or middle of the mission), and then eventually - you had a companion "kill you off" when you went home. Haha - that sounds bad. But you know - it's 19-21 year olds making this stuff up - it's the lingo. Anyway, the point is - that it's simple to see the symbolism in a journey, and a journey always teaches you something, as long as you don't lose sight of where you are RIGHT NOW.

So - anyone who has seen the TV series that Ewan and Charley did about their travels upon Motorbike, might not believe this (I told my friend and he was all - really?), but Ewan and Charley are quite charming and sensitive in the way they write. It's like - you get to find out what they're ACTUALLY thinking, and not all that goofy showy testosterone driven stuff that comes out on the surface. Both of them are married (very very happily) and have children, and are sincerely dedicated to their families. They talk about their families in the book and how much they miss them. Throughout the voyage, you actually get to read their sweet sensitive thoughts about the various stops they make to promote a number of charities, the foremost being UNICEF, and also CHAS (Children's Hospice Association Scotland), and Riders For Health - an organization that gets medical professionals on Motorcycles in Africa so that they can reach remote areas fast - getting medical attention where it is needed most. They're really passionate about each of these charities, and they share their thoughts about how each visit touched them individually.

The other thing is - WOW!!! Do you ever feel like you're right there - with them - in Africa. Each country they visited was unique and special, with so many different cultures, and so many different stories. You catch the full (well - half - as they only went down the East side) vision of what Africa really is about. One thing they mentioned is how - everybody says what a dangerous place it is. Well - the real dangers are the warlords, best just to stay away from them, but the people - absolutely everywhere they went were fantastic. They opened their homes, and their hearts, and they made the boys feel right at home. The worst danger they faced - overall (besides wildlife) was wee kids throwing rocks at them in Ethiopia. Haha. Ewan almost got stamped by an Elephant in his sleep, that was entertaining. The whole book is entertaining. I loved it, and truthfully, I didn't want to put it down when I got close to the end. Just like Ewan and Charley - I wanted to stretch out the last bit as much as possible. I guess, since I'm going on my own - big journey - granted - not as big as theirs (but a big - permanent-ish move); this is exactly the kind of thing I WOULD be reading. Gosh, don't let anybody ever tell you that you can't do it. Because anything really is possible. If you have a dream, then make it happen. Do everything you possibly can to make it work, then do it. Ewan and Charley did - twice, and who knows where they'll go for the "Long Way Up"? I'm thinking they should go the Ernesto Guevarra (Che) way and ride up through South America. Only, I think they should do it from the tip of Chile (where the penguins are), all the way up to Alaska. (though they rode through Alaska already once on long way round) - however - it's just a thought. Can you imagine though? That would be a MASSIVE undertaking... their biggest yet I would imagine. That might take them 6 months at least.

All I can say is - I love it. I love it, and everybody should read it. Here's a bit from the end that Ewan wrote that sums it up for me...

"Riders for Health had been hugely inspiring: the work of the clinic and the community health workers on dirt bikes. I thought about Scotland, CHAS and the people we'd been privileged to meet at Robin House. I thought about UNICEF and the mine-affected children in Zelambassa. I could see the village in Kenya where twenty-two children had been massacred. I could hear Daniel's voice, a child soldier in Uganda. All at once the memories began to flow. I could see Bulwer Street on the night we decided to do another trip; the Royal Geographical Society; the first time we saw the workshop at Avonmore Road. I recalled the moment when my bike arrived and I had her painted with zebra stripes. I thought about the Friday back in February when I hit that pedestrian and broke my leg. We'd done it. It was coming to an end, but we'd done it. Only I didn't want it to end. Right then I would happily have turned my bike around and ridden back along the west coast."

Really - that's what it's all about - enjoying the journey so that you don't really want it to end, but are eager to start another one. One should always be ready for the next thing, but also take time to cherish and treasure the memories that you have made.

Thanks for letting me tag along boys. xx

Wednesday 19 November 2008

I'm Doing a Tag Thingy...

Haha, I was tagged by my fellow blogger/stalker Michelle - whom I've never actually met, but we keep up on each other's blogs - quite regularly. We're blogger friends. It's fun. I haven't done one of these blog-tag thingys in a while - so here goes...

The rules are that you are to answer the following questions in one word and then pass it on to other bloggers...

Where is your cell phone? Desk
Where is your significant other? Mystery
Your hair color? Blonde
Your mother? Fey
Your father? Crusty
Your favorite thing? Scriptures
Your dream last night? Ambiguous
Your dream/goal? Motherhood
The room you’re in? Bedroom
Your hobby? Food
Your fear? Faced
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Family
Where were you last night? Home
What you’re not? Ordinairy
One of your wish-list items? Books
Where you grew up? Calgary
Last thing you did? Facebook
What are you wearing? Sweater
Your TV? Never
Your pet? Cat
Your computer? Dell
Your mood? Content
Missing someone? Yes
Your car? Gone
Something you’re not wearing? Hat
Favorite store? Chapters
Your summer? Outside
Love someone? Yes
Your favorite color? Green
When is the last time you laughed? recently
Last time you cried? Week

I'm going to tag...

Diane M
Meaghann - because she hasn't blogged in 5 months according to my list. (she must be busy)

Also - Marsha - you can do this on paper - and then report to me in the morning. But, only if you want to...

Monday 17 November 2008

My Kidlets...

Here's some classic moments from family dinners...

Mostly videos involving either my niece Chloe or her brother - my nephew Beckham. Chloe's a bit sad that I'm leaving, so she's been extra clingy lately, but she's highly entertaining. The pink hair ones were taken today.

It's true - he is pretty weird. (my brother - bless him)

I love that bit where he thinks he's hilarious because he escaped Chloe's grasp. Haha.

Beckham can make even a napkin entertaining. I don't know why, but this kills me.

Christmas came a little early because - you know - I'm leaving. I gave Chloe my coin collection from all over the world. She loves it.

A fashionista at the age of 6. Already streaking her hair!!! I love that she's wearing a Curious George band-aid.

Saturday 15 November 2008

Pictures As Promised

So, here's some pictures of the new flat that Steve found for me. He sent them this morning. The place looks totally amazing. I'm really excited about it now.

This is the front of the building - I'm on the top floor. No elevator, so it will be an awesome opportunity to get my exercise. Yay!!

Looking East from the front entrance.

Looking West from the front entrance.

The Living Room (I believe the little one belongs to the Landlord)

The Bedroom and Boiler Closet.

The Bathroom - all shiny and modern looking

The Kitchen in galley style. Note - in the UK, the Clothes Washer and Dryer are in the kitchen, you can see it at the bottom there.

The Common Garden - mostly used for drying clothes, but I think they might let me garden if I ask nicely.

So yeah - that's it. It's all finalized too. I've paid my damage deposit, and first month's rent, am signing and faxing documents. It's all mine for at least the next 6 months. Now all I need is a job.

Friday 14 November 2008

A Wee Place To Call My Own

I now have a place to live when I arrive in my new country. THANKS SO MUCH TO STEVE!!!! for about the 50th time for checking out places for me to live. It helps A LOT to have a very good friend on the other end doing things I can't do myself. I appreciate it so much that you took time out of your busy schedule to check out a few places for me. Seriously, you have no idea how much you have lifted a weight off my shoulders. Little by little, bit by bit - I've experienced this whole weight-lifting off of shoulders over one issue or another. I'm starting to feel better and better about the entire move. I know there's still 10 zillion things I need to do before feeling really settled. Funny how my fortune cookie predicted that the other night... "You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily" (or something like that) doodoodoodoo. ;-) Anyway, yeah - the flat (according to Steve - and Steve is usually right) is amazing. It's in an old tenement building on Clepington Road (pics of Clepington that I found on the internet to follow) which has been renovated and refurbished, and has all modern fixtures, double paned windows, one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen (my very own kitchen), washer/dryer - that's all I need. However, it has more than I need, it also has a great view from the front of the Tay; AND a view of the Sidlaws from the rear window. I'm so excited. My own little flat and home of my own. Hmm, now all I need is a job. Well, I'm working on that, but unfortunately employers don't really want to talk to you about a position until you are right there - in front of them. So, that part, I'll have to take on faith. I know things will work out because I'm doing the right thing, and things have worked out - fairly ok so far. So - yeah - a flat of my own - to call my home. Steve is sending pictures soon, but until then, I have some street pics that I pulled off the internet like I said...

Actually this is one I took myself - 2 years ago of the Tay from the Law - a Giant Hill in the middle of the city.

This is the pic I took of the Sidlaws from the Law on the same trip.

Typical tenements on Clepington Road.

A couple of elderly gents heading to "The Clep" for a pint.

A couple of shops on Clepington Road

No Scottish neighborhood is complete without one of these. Haha.

Nice view down Provost Road - which intersects? I think...

Anyway, there are some pics and that should give you some sort of idea of how it will be. Don't worry, in 26 sleeps when I leave (28 to when I actually arrive in Dundee), I shall give you most of the details.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Today I am Remembering...

James O'Neill - my Great-Grandfather...

... who died while serving his country in World War 1. He also served in the South African Campaign and was only 35 when he died in battle. He is remembered at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. He and his wife Emily O'Neill - my Great-Grandmother were separated by death for 65 years. She often could be heard describing him this way... "Aye, he was a grand lad." ;-) in her broad Geordie accent. She missed him all of the time they were separated.

For him, and thousands like him, I take a moment of silence in gratitude for my freedom.

Monday 10 November 2008

The Ugly Duckling

First published on November 11th, 1843 in Hans Christian Andersen's "New Fairy Tales. First Book. First Collection. 1844"...

"It was lovely summer weather in the country, and the golden corn, the green oats, and the haystacks piled up in the meadows looked beautiful. The stork walking about on his long red legs chattered in the Egyptian language, which he had learnt from his mother. The corn-fields and meadows were surrounded by large forests, in the midst of which were deep pools. It was, indeed, delightful to walk about in the country. In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farm-house close by a deep river, and from the house down to the water side grew great burdock leaves, so high, that under the tallest of them a little child could stand upright. The spot was as wild as the centre of a thick wood. In this snug retreat sat a duck on her nest, watching for her young brood to hatch; she was beginning to get tired of her task, for the little ones were a long time coming out of their shells, and she seldom had any visitors. The other ducks liked much better to swim about in the river than to climb the slippery banks, and sit under a burdock leaf, to have a gossip with her. At length one shell cracked, and then another, and from each egg came a living creature that lifted its head and cried, “Peep, peep.” “Quack, quack,” said the mother, and then they all quacked as well as they could, and looked about them on every side at the large green leaves. Their mother allowed them to look as much as they liked, because green is good for the eyes. “How large the world is,” said the young ducks, when they found how much more room they now had than while they were inside the egg-shell. “Do you imagine this is the whole world?” asked the mother; “Wait till you have seen the garden; it stretches far beyond that to the parson’s field, but I have never ventured to such a distance. Are you all out?” she continued, rising; “No, I declare, the largest egg lies there still. I wonder how long this is to last, I am quite tired of it;” and she seated herself again on the nest.

“Well, how are you getting on?” asked an old duck, who paid her a visit.

“One egg is not hatched yet,” said the duck, “it will not break. But just look at all the others, are they not the prettiest little ducklings you ever saw? They are the image of their father, who is so unkind, he never comes to see.”

“Let me see the egg that will not break,” said the duck; “I have no doubt it is a turkey’s egg. I was persuaded to hatch some once, and after all my care and trouble with the young ones, they were afraid of the water. I quacked and clucked, but all to no purpose. I could not get them to venture in. Let me look at the egg. Yes, that is a turkey’s egg; take my advice, leave it where it is and teach the other children to swim.”

“I think I will sit on it a little while longer,” said the duck; “as I have sat so long already, a few days will be nothing.”

“Please yourself,” said the old duck, and she went away.

At last the large egg broke, and a young one crept forth crying, “Peep, peep.” It was very large and ugly. The duck stared at it and exclaimed, “It is very large and not at all like the others. I wonder if it really is a turkey. We shall soon find it out, however when we go to the water. It must go in, if I have to push it myself.”

On the next day the weather was delightful, and the sun shone brightly on the green burdock leaves, so the mother duck took her young brood down to the water, and jumped in with a splash. “Quack, quack,” cried she, and one after another the little ducklings jumped in. The water closed over their heads, but they came up again in an instant, and swam about quite prettily with their legs paddling under them as easily as possible, and the ugly duckling was also in the water swimming with them.

“Oh,” said the mother, “that is not a turkey; how well he uses his legs, and how upright he holds himself! He is my own child, and he is not so very ugly after all if you look at him properly. Quack, quack! come with me now, I will take you into grand society, and introduce you to the farmyard, but you must keep close to me or you may be trodden upon; and, above all, beware of the cat.”

When they reached the farmyard, there was a great disturbance, two families were fighting for an eel’s head, which, after all, was carried off by the cat. “See, children, that is the way of the world,” said the mother duck, whetting her beak, for she would have liked the eel’s head herself. “Come, now, use your legs, and let me see how well you can behave. You must bow your heads prettily to that old duck yonder; she is the highest born of them all, and has Spanish blood, therefore, she is well off. Don’t you see she has a red flag tied to her leg, which is something very grand, and a great honor for a duck; it shows that every one is anxious not to lose her, as she can be recognized both by man and beast. Come, now, don’t turn your toes, a well-bred duckling spreads his feet wide apart, just like his father and mother, in this way; now bend your neck, and say ‘quack.’”

The ducklings did as they were bid, but the other duck stared, and said, “Look, here comes another brood, as if there were not enough of us already! and what a queer looking object one of them is; we don’t want him here,” and then one flew out and bit him in the neck.

“Let him alone,” said the mother; “he is not doing any harm.”

“Yes, but he is so big and ugly,” said the spiteful duck “and therefore he must be turned out.”

“The others are very pretty children,” said the old duck, with the rag on her leg, “all but that one; I wish his mother could improve him a little.”

“That is impossible, your grace,” replied the mother; “he is not pretty; but he has a very good disposition, and swims as well or even better than the others. I think he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be smaller; he has remained too long in the egg, and therefore his figure is not properly formed;” and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the feathers, saying, “It is a drake, and therefore not of so much consequence. I think he will grow up strong, and able to take care of himself.”

“The other ducklings are graceful enough,” said the old duck. “Now make yourself at home, and if you can find an eel’s head, you can bring it to me.”

And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling, who had crept out of his shell last of all, and looked so ugly, was bitten and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks, but by all the poultry. “He is too big,” they all said, and the turkey cock, who had been born into the world with spurs, and fancied himself really an emperor, puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail, and flew at the duckling, and became quite red in the head with passion, so that the poor little thing did not know where to go, and was quite miserable because he was so ugly and laughed at by the whole farmyard. So it went on from day to day till it got worse and worse. The poor duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters were unkind to him, and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the cat would get you,” and his mother said she wished he had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and the girl who fed the poultry kicked him with her feet. So at last he ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the palings.

“They are afraid of me because I am ugly,” he said. So he closed his eyes, and flew still farther, until he came out on a large moor, inhabited by wild ducks. Here he remained the whole night, feeling very tired and sorrowful.

In the morning, when the wild ducks rose in the air, they stared at their new comrade. “What sort of a duck are you?” they all said, coming round him.

He bowed to them, and was as polite as he could be, but he did not reply to their question. “You are exceedingly ugly,” said the wild ducks, “but that will not matter if you do not want to marry one of our family.”

Poor thing! he had no thoughts of marriage; all he wanted was permission to lie among the rushes, and drink some of the water on the moor. After he had been on the moor two days, there came two wild geese, or rather goslings, for they had not been out of the egg long, and were very saucy. “Listen, friend,” said one of them to the duckling, “you are so ugly, that we like you very well. Will you go with us, and become a bird of passage? Not far from here is another moor, in which there are some pretty wild geese, all unmarried. It is a chance for you to get a wife; you may be lucky, ugly as you are.”

“Pop, pop,” sounded in the air, and the two wild geese fell dead among the rushes, and the water was tinged with blood. “Pop, pop,” echoed far and wide in the distance, and whole flocks of wild geese rose up from the rushes. The sound continued from every direction, for the sportsmen surrounded the moor, and some were even seated on branches of trees, overlooking the rushes. The blue smoke from the guns rose like clouds over the dark trees, and as it floated away across the water, a number of sporting dogs bounded in among the rushes, which bent beneath them wherever they went. How they terrified the poor duckling! He turned away his head to hide it under his wing, and at the same moment a large terrible dog passed quite near him. His jaws were open, his tongue hung from his mouth, and his eyes glared fearfully. He thrust his nose close to the duckling, showing his sharp teeth, and then, “splash, splash,” he went into the water without touching him, “Oh,” sighed the duckling, “how thankful I am for being so ugly; even a dog will not bite me.” And so he lay quite still, while the shot rattled through the rushes, and gun after gun was fired over him. It was late in the day before all became quiet, but even then the poor young thing did not dare to move. He waited quietly for several hours, and then, after looking carefully around him, hastened away from the moor as fast as he could. He ran over field and meadow till a storm arose, and he could hardly struggle against it. Towards evening, he reached a poor little cottage that seemed ready to fall, and only remained standing because it could not decide on which side to fall first. The storm continued so violent, that the duckling could go no farther; he sat down by the cottage, and then he noticed that the door was not quite closed in consequence of one of the hinges having given way. There was therefore a narrow opening near the bottom large enough for him to slip through, which he did very quietly, and got a shelter for the night. A woman, a tom cat, and a hen lived in this cottage. The tom cat, whom the mistress called, “My little son,” was a great favorite; he could raise his back, and purr, and could even throw out sparks from his fur if it were stroked the wrong way. The hen had very short legs, so she was called “Chickie short legs.” She laid good eggs, and her mistress loved her as if she had been her own child. In the morning, the strange visitor was discovered, and the tom cat began to purr, and the hen to cluck.

“What is that noise about?” said the old woman, looking round the room, but her sight was not very good; therefore, when she saw the duckling she thought it must be a fat duck, that had strayed from home. “Oh what a prize!” she exclaimed, “I hope it is not a drake, for then I shall have some duck’s eggs. I must wait and see.” So the duckling was allowed to remain on trial for three weeks, but there were no eggs. Now the tom cat was the master of the house, and the hen was mistress, and they always said, “We and the world,” for they believed themselves to be half the world, and the better half too. The duckling thought that others might hold a different opinion on the subject, but the hen would not listen to such doubts. “Can you lay eggs?” she asked. “No.” “Then have the goodness to hold your tongue.” “Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out sparks?” said the tom cat. “No.” “Then you have no right to express an opinion when sensible people are speaking.” So the duckling sat in a corner, feeling very low spirited, till the sunshine and the fresh air came into the room through the open door, and then he began to feel such a great longing for a swim on the water, that he could not help telling the hen.

“What an absurd idea,” said the hen. “You have nothing else to do, therefore you have foolish fancies. If you could purr or lay eggs, they would pass away.”

“But it is so delightful to swim about on the water,” said the duckling, “and so refreshing to feel it close over your head, while you dive down to the bottom.”

“Delightful, indeed!” said the hen, “why you must be crazy! Ask the cat, he is the cleverest animal I know, ask him how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive under it, for I will not speak of my own opinion; ask our mistress, the old woman—there is no one in the world more clever than she is. Do you think she would like to swim, or to let the water close over her head?”

“You don’t understand me,” said the duckling.

“We don’t understand you? Who can understand you, I wonder? Do you consider yourself more clever than the cat, or the old woman? I will say nothing of myself. Don’t imagine such nonsense, child, and thank your good fortune that you have been received here. Are you not in a warm room, and in society from which you may learn something. But you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe me, I speak only for your own good. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs, and learn to purr as quickly as possible.”

“I believe I must go out into the world again,” said the duckling.

“Yes, do,” said the hen. So the duckling left the cottage, and soon found water on which it could swim and dive, but was avoided by all other animals, because of its ugly appearance. Autumn came, and the leaves in the forest turned to orange and gold. then, as winter approached, the wind caught them as they fell and whirled them in the cold air. The clouds, heavy with hail and snow-flakes, hung low in the sky, and the raven stood on the ferns crying, “Croak, croak.” It made one shiver with cold to look at him. All this was very sad for the poor little duckling. One evening, just as the sun set amid radiant clouds, there came a large flock of beautiful birds out of the bushes. The duckling had never seen any like them before. They were swans, and they curved their graceful necks, while their soft plumage shown with dazzling whiteness. They uttered a singular cry, as they spread their glorious wings and flew away from those cold regions to warmer countries across the sea. As they mounted higher and higher in the air, the ugly little duckling felt quite a strange sensation as he watched them. He whirled himself in the water like a wheel, stretched out his neck towards them, and uttered a cry so strange that it frightened himself. Could he ever forget those beautiful, happy birds; and when at last they were out of his sight, he dived under the water, and rose again almost beside himself with excitement. He knew not the names of these birds, nor where they had flown, but he felt towards them as he had never felt for any other bird in the world. He was not envious of these beautiful creatures, but wished to be as lovely as they. Poor ugly creature, how gladly he would have lived even with the ducks had they only given him encouragement. The winter grew colder and colder; he was obliged to swim about on the water to keep it from freezing, but every night the space on which he swam became smaller and smaller. At length it froze so hard that the ice in the water crackled as he moved, and the duckling had to paddle with his legs as well as he could, to keep the space from closing up. He became exhausted at last, and lay still and helpless, frozen fast in the ice.

Early in the morning, a peasant, who was passing by, saw what had happened. He broke the ice in pieces with his wooden shoe, and carried the duckling home to his wife. The warmth revived the poor little creature; but when the children wanted to play with him, the duckling thought they would do him some harm; so he started up in terror, fluttered into the milk-pan, and splashed the milk about the room. Then the woman clapped her hands, which frightened him still more. He flew first into the butter-cask, then into the meal-tub, and out again. What a condition he was in! The woman screamed, and struck at him with the tongs; the children laughed and screamed, and tumbled over each other, in their efforts to catch him; but luckily he escaped. The door stood open; the poor creature could just manage to slip out among the bushes, and lie down quite exhausted in the newly fallen snow.

It would be very sad, were I to relate all the misery and privations which the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter; but when it had passed, he found himself lying one morning in a moor, amongst the rushes. He felt the warm sun shining, and heard the lark singing, and saw that all around was beautiful spring. Then the young bird felt that his wings were strong, as he flapped them against his sides, and rose high into the air. They bore him onwards, until he found himself in a large garden, before he well knew how it had happened. The apple-trees were in full blossom, and the fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the stream which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked beautiful, in the freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful white swans, rustling their feathers, and swimming lightly over the smooth water. The duckling remembered the lovely birds, and felt more strangely unhappy than ever.

“I will fly to those royal birds,” he exclaimed, “and they will kill me, because I am so ugly, and dare to approach them; but it does not matter: better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved with hunger in the winter.”

Then he flew to the water, and swam towards the beautiful swans. The moment they espied the stranger, they rushed to meet him with outstretched wings.

“Kill me,” said the poor bird; and he bent his head down to the surface of the water, and awaited death.

But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own image; no longer a dark, gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a graceful and beautiful swan. To be born in a duck’s nest, in a farmyard, is of no consequence to a bird, if it is hatched from a swan’s egg. He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome.

Into the garden presently came some little children, and threw bread and cake into the water.

“See,” cried the youngest, “there is a new one;” and the rest were delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping their hands, and shouting joyously, “There is another swan come; a new one has arrived.”

Then they threw more bread and cake into the water, and said, “The new one is the most beautiful of all; he is so young and pretty.” And the old swans bowed their heads before him.

Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

Thank-you President Craig for following the promptings as always. I will miss you and the entire Foothills Stake Presidency very much when I move to my new Stake.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Who Do They Think They Are????

Imagine my shock when I walked out of the building at work today and read the newspaper heading that said.....

"City hall plans to raise your property taxes 25% - Tax hike compounded over three years 9.6% in 2009, 6.8% in 2010, 6.9% in 2011... and that doesn't even include hikes to user fees and utilities."

That was on the Calgary Sun, the Herald said this...

"City Budget: Plan Draws Firestorm of Criticism - 23% - Property Tax Bills May Rise $262 by 2011."

I think the Sun caught my attention more - which is surprising because I usually prefer the Herald.


How the HOCKEY STICK are my pensioner parents going to bloody afford that?!?! They're barely keeping their heads above water as it is!!!

I just think it's ridiculous how the rich get richer in this city and the poor get poorer. There's no middle-class anymore. However, I'm thinking that nobody - rich or poor is very happy about the budget proposal. Where does all that money go to? Beautifying no doubt. Stupid fancy foot-bridges as Karlo put it. Does Mr. Bronconnier realize that he's using PEOPLE'S money for his stupid projects? Obviously they need to re-assess some of those useless projects. Who's going to be able to afford those fancy condos downtown soon anyway? We're on the brink of recession, and I'm thinking even a depression. Who the (fine I'm going to say it) HELL do they think they are? I'm leaving this city - for reasons like this and others, however my parents and family remain behind. I have grave concerns about this budget proposal. I'm writing Bronco himself. I'm Outraged to say the least!!

I think it's time to have a "sell your house and move to a smaller cheaper community" talk with my parents and siblings. Perhaps they could move to Ogema, Saskatchewan...

This is the letter I sent to the Mayor's office. Perhaps it's a bit umm harsh. Granted, I wrote it in anger. I cc'd Diane Colley-Urquhart.

Dear Mayor Bronconnier/Alderman Colley-Urquhart,

I am not a home-owner in Calgary, but have been a citizen of this city my entire life, and my pensioner parents own a home here in the Southwest part of the city.

There is NO WAY they will be able to afford a tax hike of 25% over the proposed 3 year period as you have indicated in your city budget. I doubt ANYONE in this city will be able to afford something that ludicrous soon enough.

Clearly we are on the brink of recession, and who knows what else - worldwide. What makes you think anybody can afford a tax hike of that magnitude? Have you lost your mind Mr. Bronconnier? Evidently, you need mental health counselling.

Mrs. Colley-Urquhart, you know my position. I voted for you, now do your worst. (or rather your best), I know you have it in you. Do not fail me - nor my pensioner parents, nor anyone in this Ward. Oppose the new budget please!!! Oh, and Dave - I didn't vote for you. I didn't vote for that freaky Kassam either, but I didn't vote for you.



*UPDATE* Wow!!! Not 5 minutes later, and Mrs. Colley Urquhart responded. Look what she said...

Hi xx. I understand. And, I agree with u. I have elderly parents. And, I know how hard it is for them to make ends meet. Diane.

Thank you for contacting us. We regularly correspond with citizens to seek input and to keep you informed on a variety of issues on a timely basis. Let us know if you do not wish to be contacted.

That is REALLY impressive. I love that woman. I knew I voted for her for a reason. She gets things done.

You go girl!!!

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Even I Am Moved

Alright, ok, alright already....

You know how I hate to get involved or even discuss American politics? Well dang it all - tonight it's kind of impossible. It is impossible to not get caught up in and get excited about history being made. I mean - lots of people dreamed this day would come, lots of people hoped this day would come, but did they actually believe it? Here it is - the most racist country on the planet (and no that's not up for debate) just elected a Black President. I have to say - it's hard to not be excited about that. I had a moment where the tears actually did come out of my eyes. Yes - Mr. Obama - you have even moved this dyed-in-the-wool Canadian who dislikes your country. I'm not saying I dislike Americans - I have many good friends who are Americans - and I love every one of them. Clearly, I have no friends who are racists - otherwise they would not be my friends - duh. It's just the idea of America - their audacity, their "centre of the universe" mentality, their "blow everything up" mentality. Honestly, there isn't a country in the world where they are really well liked. I'm making generalizations, and there are OBVIOUSLY exceptions to the rule - overall though - it's a given. However, perhaps - maybe...

this man - could he change my viewpoint? I mean - he is a man who can move a country that has been divided for a very long time to come together and decide (from all corners of the country - in a landslide victory) that they want one man to lead them. Not just any man...

...A Black Man. (and on top of that - a Kenyan name - a son of an immigrant) 100 years ago, that was unthinkable. Heck, 40 years ago, that was unthinkable. Perhaps 30 years ago - it was a little imaginable. I remember when I was reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and the bit where Malcolm was the head of his class - clearly also the smartest kid in the school. He went to his teacher, and he said - you know - I think - maybe I want to be a lawyer. His teacher told him, that was a nice idea, but - for a colored boy? Hmm, maybe you should try being a plumber, or any one of the trades... You know - that was common thinking back then, and in some parts - it still has been recently - but today?!?!?! A black man has proven that he can be whatever he wants. He has proven that he can be (I hate that I'm admitting this - haha) the most powerful man in the world.

So for Mr. Obama to unify the people of the United States to elect him as their leader is really pretty impressive. It honestly (whether I like it or not) does affect the entire world, and to be honest, I'm glad they chose him. Though, in all fairness, Mr. McCain gave a very humble and gracious concession speech. He's the real deal, and a true gentleman. You have to admit that. Anyway, as I said - I hate to get mixed up in this American business, and for months and months I've been complaining that I'm sick to death of hearing about their election. (we seriously have the right idea of quick campaigns) Though, as I said - I am amazed, and in awe of the history that has been made here today.

After I heard his acceptance speech, I texted my best friend - who is black. I said - "Are You Amazed? I'm Amazed". She wrote back - "Me too but this is historic. The lord must have had a hand in it. We may not have anything 2 brag about in Canada when he's done repairing." (meaning their economy) I figure - if anyone can repair them - he can.

The best of luck to you Mr. Obama.

p.s. - PLEASE get really good security - for all our sakes.

Dangit, he's distracted me from Yoga, and now it's way past my bed time. Yoga tomorrow.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

My 3rd Favorite Holiday

My 3rd favorite holiday is coming up...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

That's a poem that probably every Canadian child has memorized at one point or another in their lives. It's written by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, MD (1872-1918) of the Canadian Army. Here's a little history I found that I thought would be great to share...

I took this from a site (believe it or not) dedicated to the U.S. Arlington National Cemetery. It seems Lieutenant Colonel McRae's poem has touched hearts the world over...

McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it:

"I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done."

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

"The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

People often think I like Remembrance day for the obvious reason - that someone very important was born that day. However, when I was growing up, never did a Remembrance Day pass where my Mother didn't make us turn on the TV to the CBC and watch the veterans light a flame at a grave and have a moment of silence. I guess it started to sink in after a few years. I don't think we take enough time to think about how our freedom came at a very high price. Many people have died to maintain our freedom in this country; and also the freedom of people around the world. Many brave Canadian soldiers have laid their lives on the line for those freedoms. I had a friend die just a few months (a month?) ago who was fighting to keep the Afghan people free from the clutches of the Taliban. Regardless of whether or not one believes we should or shouldn't be there - the Soldiers' motivation for fighting is pure. I support them.

I had a neighbour down the street when I was growing up - his name was Tom Spear. He was THE friendliest and most sincere man on the planet. He lived to be 103 years old!!! Pretty much up to his 100th year, the man could - seriously - be found shoveling his neighbours' walkway in the middle of winter in -40 degree Celsius weather. I'm not talking - just his immediate neighbours - I mean - all of them - down the street. He also drove a car and maintained his license all that time. When I was a little girl walking on my route to school, I could always see him in his garden working away with a smile, and he always said hello to me. He told me to call him "Mr. Happy Man" hahahahaha. So cute. He knew how to make people feel loved. He was a man who lived his principles. He was also a World War Veteran (1 and 2). For me - growing up down the street from Mr. Happy Man and knowing he was a veteran who had served his country - had an impact on me as a child, and it stuck with me. I know we are safe in this country because of men like Tom Spear.

Anyway, Remembrance Day is very important to me - as it should be to all of us. Take a moment of silence for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms next Tuesday....

Also - totally unrelated - I made a list of my favorite Holidays - in order from Most favorite to least favorite - simply because I wanted to. For anyone else who's curious, here it is...

Remembrance Day
Dominion Day
St. Patrick's Day
Mother's Day
Father's Day
Grandparents' Day
Daylight Savings Time Ends (fall back)
Cinco de Mayo
New Year's Day
Boxing Day
Family Day
Victoria Day
Labour Day
Civic Holiday
Daylight Savings Time Begins (spring forward)
Valentine's Day

Monday 3 November 2008

I'm Not Perfect - Evidently

37 SLEEPS!!!

You know what's really freaking me out lately? I think it's just - insecurity/vulnerability. I've endured an awful lot of change lately. I mean - there's the big one... 110 pounds down after a lifetime of obesity. Granted, it didn't come off overnight - however - getting to a point where people no longer think I'm overweight at all - is REALLY unfamiliar territory for me. I am still overweight by the way - according to the BMI. However, the BMI is always off. So - I've never been here before, and frankly - I'm beginning to understand why I held off for so long... anyway, enough of that talk. I have to live with it I suppose. If I want to be healthy, I must maintain my lifestyle - and I will. It's just really frustrating and disappointing to see how shallow - umm - people (of both sexes) can be. However, there are true gems in my life - who have loved me all along for who I am. I love you my friends. Hugs out to all of you. So, I have to endure the changes that come with that. Then, there's the OTHER big change. Umm, switching my job, country, continent, life is a HUGE change. I like change generally, I find it challenges a person, and helps them to grow. However, with something big like that and the other thing - all kinds of challenges come along with it. Not the least of which - in fact the majority of it - is how other people around you deal with the changes. I'm trying really hard to not allow what other people think/feel affect my life/mood/feelings - however - since I am a people person - how can it be helped? I guess there's no way it can be helped. I've been a bit moody lately - to say the least - and I've been placing judgements on others simply because they have placed judgements on me. I hate that. Why perpetuate the pettiness? It needs to stop. I'm stopping now. If you catch me being petty - slap me please - on the face. Haha, Marsha's totally going to be slapping me tomorrow. Anyway, yeah - I've been under a lot of pressure - on all sides - so be patient with me. I'm flawed - I'm not perfect - contrary to popular opinion. ;-)

I just know Linda's going to find this mug at some store and buy it for me. Haha ;-)

Gosh, I hope they find someone great to replace me at work; however, I need to stop worrying about that. It's not my problem. I just need to train someone and move on. I really need to recognize that I'm moving on and that I don't need to worry about it.

Ok, I think that summarizes my share-able thoughts at the moment. Just thought I'd share. Have a great week.