Grandpa Ralph: sauntering down memory lane

What a crazy week of organizing and going through some of my belongings in storage. It was quite shocking to see how much clothing I have acquired over the years … Boxes and boxes that have been stuffed away in the cubby hole – – in between travels, seasons and homes. I’ve been warned as to the extremes in temperature, expected in a Calgary Canadian winter, so it was important for me to find a wardrobe that adapted to both the winter climate and the potential for a career outside of the home. Gasp! It has been SUCH a long time since I have worked at a ‘real job’ that wasn’t contract (I’ve been my own boss forever!). Before my career as a web designer, I travelled the globe packing parachutes in addition to other interesting odd jobs. It’s been a spectacular run. And I’m surprised at how excited I am at the prospect of a short blast in the ‘9-5’ workforce, becoming a ‘civilized employee’, making a regular income, contributing as slaDE~ is, working full days and earning some of the $ desired for our travel dreams.

When last home, we visited with Grandpa and, during that time, suggested the idea of dinner before we left on our new adventure. With a twinkle in his eye, Grandpa raved about the sweet potato fries that could be found in Wingham. So there it was, the perfect opportunity to have a lovely evening with my 86 year old grandfather, eating great food in the company of a man with a brain as sharp and intelligent as any 30 year old. Walking and talking history. This man keeps up-to-date with news like no other … Several hours a day he spends researching the latest events on the web and then on top of it, reads the newspapers and informs himself with news programs. Quite inspiring really, to be so informed and sharp at such an age. Hurrah Grandpa! He also likes to read my blog :).

It’s kinda neat when I speak about my Dad’s side of the family: the Weishar clan. So please let me indulge you a bit!
Grandpa Ralph is a father to one of the largest families in Ontario (there are no twins and all are surviving except my uncle, who was the eldest of all the children; I have 4 Aunts and 15 Uncles from my Grandma Rose. Yes, this not a typo … 19 children! Grandma was an incredible — busy — woman) … Growing up with this many aunts and uncles was quite a memorable and very special experience. I even have an uncle who is YOUNGER than me (think about it … your mother having children when you are having children). Grandpa Ralph has led an incredibly full life, raising his children on a dairy-beef farm where Grandma Rose had the HUGEst garden, made the best fresh pea soup, ground and made her own sausage, whipped her own farm-fresh butter and always had a large tin of homemade cookies (peanut butter being my favourite — nobody ever had peanut allergies growing up?) on hand tucked away in the nook, above the old stairwell down to the cellar, that always smelled like potatoes. The family dining table was massive, lined by two benches, reminding me a lot on the lifestyle in Little House on the Prairie. All the children that were at home (quite a large number at one time) slept in big down feather beds, sometimes 5 to a bed at once. That was really unique, especially if there was a sleepover. My Grandma always served 3 steaming hot filling meals a day and the conversations at meal time was always lively and filled with camaraderie. We spent much time with the Weishar family, growing up; the farm that I was raised on was just down the road from my Grandparents home. In the summer we lived full time in the countryside (Teeswater) and on the weekends, for the remainder of the school year, we spent half of our time between Listowel and Teeswater, first in a single-wide trailer that was eventually replaced with a double-wide. A few years before Dad sold our farm, he had moved into the existing house and built a HUGE addition – – the homestead was usually inhabited by my sister and her family or by a close relative; we sustained ourselves quite nicely in the trailer otherwise. With so many boys in one family, snowmobiles, motorbikes and ball-hockey games were our means of entertainment. I was kind of a tomboy in my younger years. But I grew out of that quickly in my late teens (sort of?!).
It was quite the event when my Grandparents sold the farm to their son and moved into the small country town of Teeswater. I actually came to miss the times when Grandma would chase me and my cousins/uncles out of her only apple tree with a broom — she chided us on picking her green apples with the possibility of getting an upset tummy (me who used to drink vinegar and devour green apples slathered with salt, without ever the whim of an ulcer).

After giving you this little bit of my family’s history, it’s needless to say, the death of my Grandma had an enormous impact on my family and the community. Rose died a few years after Kenny. I wasn’t home for her funeral and actually only found out about her passing a few weeks after-the-fact; I was in Australia at the time and it was difficult to get a hold of me (those were the days before the internet was a part of my life). I knew before I ventured on my year long journey to Oz that I would never see Grandma alive again. Now, that was a difficult extremely sad goodbye. At the time, she was at home, bed-ridden and not in very good health. But she remembered me well and bid me a tearful farewell. I remember and admire Rose so fondly. My Grandmother sacrificed so much, always giving and expecting absolutely NOTHING in return … I believe that she was the closest notion to a Saint if such a person were to exist on this earth (a busy one at that!). Grandpa fared amazingly well after her death … And even to this day, I admire his stamina, adaptability and his kind, generous and naturally charismatic demeanour. My Father is very much my Grandfather’s son … they are alike in almost every way (the long Weishar nose and musical talent included :)).

Grandpa Ralph was in fine form when we arrived at his Teeswater home, alight with hundreds of Christmas lights and an inflatable Santa. My younger Uncle Darrel and his wife Jan share their home with Grandpa; I love the fact that Jan is so festively creative with all the holidays. And I’m sure with having some of his grandchildren around, Ralph is kept on his toes, vibrant and young. The ‘Anchor’ was a lovely little pub in downtown Wingham and we spent several hours lively with chatter enjoy a fine meal of fried cod and sweet potato fries. In fact, this is the first time ever that I can remember spending an evening and meal alone with my granddad, where other family members weren’t around (of course slaDE~ is family but he and I are one, really) … And it is moments like this that I can look back on and cherish my fond family memories. A walk down memory lane indeed!

A walk with my Brother

SlaDE~s early morning delivery of Dad’s truck to the other farm gave me the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane. Or should I say, a stroll down recollection road, as adopted by my Father, in remembrance of my brother Kenny, who passed away 18 years ago this past June (on Father’s Day). ‘Kenny’s Road’ as I fondly honour it.

Before my Dad sold the farm the I grew up on (perhaps 16 years ago?), Kenny spent much time in the bush, especially at the cabin that they had built from the wood harvested from those bushes. I recall one mid-summer’s afternoon when I was about 12, with Kenny riding a horse and me riding the three-wheeler, we ventured into the said forest and he showed me to ‘The Valley of the Trilliums’. Standing proud were hundreds of white beautiful flowers, noted as Ontario’s official emblem. I don’t ever recall seeing one Trillium up close and personal let alone a whole basin of the beautiful blossoms. We lounged and talked for hours, more as friends than as brother and sister. It was an afternoon like no other, and one of the few that sticks out so vividly in my mind. That bush was a sanctuary of discovery for all of us kids, I believe, growing up. And upon hearing of it’s sale (I was in Australia at the time), I was deeply saddened, feeling an incredible loss, knowing that for me this farmland held the last few remnants that belonged to our family, holding Kenny so brilliantly and poignantly in my mind

Back to today’s walk: I had an incredibly intense and soulful sense of connection and closeness with my brother. The weather was unbelievably warm and natures’s colours were vibrant and enhanced with the sombre cloud cover (my favourite time for taking photos when light is reflected and intense, especially at sunrise or dusk). Although I was kicking myself for not bringing along my digital camera, I was quite surprised at how more fully connected I was to nature, the breeze swirling around me without the camera’s distracting capacity. Everywhere I gazed, I was framing the shots in my mind. What a gift … I thoroughly enjoyed the visual canvas so extravagantly and beautifully laid out before me. I honestly feel blessed by the gift I possess … the ability and talent to frame beauty anywhere (in even the simplest of forms) I look. I truly believe that this is a gift from my brother. He was incredibly talented and creative. He was an phenomenal abstract artist who drew/imaged some awe-inspiring lithographic paintings. Someday, it’s my goal to scan in all the slides of his artwork (with my parents blessing of course) and sell them online, with the proceeds going to The Salvation Army or some other charity of their choice. The Salvation Army played a huge role in my brother’s existence when he was down and out. From my understanding, there was only so much financial help that Kenny would accept from my family, and often he would turn to this charity for his well-being. My brother was wild, untamed and beautiful in his youthfulness, often classified as a rebel. However, he didn’t care what others thought and he lived a unique, rugged and unbroken existence. Shunned by many, especially many relatives and acquaintances who judged his spirit, he lived carefree yet not unscathed. He carried the burdens of a haunted soul, far beyond his years. He only lived to the ripe young age of 24. I think that I am similar to Kenny in many ways … I live with no boundaries, travelling the world in my nomadic ways, fluid (except with my packrat ways) and loving life fully.
I miss my brother dearly and profoundly.

Again I digress. One of the responsibilities behind adopting a road, here in Ontario, is to maintain its cleanliness, picking up garbage and keeping it clean. The road was immaculate until I passed the cabin, oddly enough. Beyond that, trash was strewn quite liberally, often hidden in clumps of leaves or in shallow gravel-filled ditches. I had never thought to bring any bags to collect the rubbish, and with full pockets and hat, I questioned how I could carry everything without duplicating the problem. Yet somehow I managed to find the bags that I needed to fulfil the obligation that should rest on everyone … picking up that which doesn’t belong in nature. Tim Horton’s cups and pop cans seemed to be the prevalent form of waste. Amazing how many cigarette butts lie everywhere. Why litter our land with such toxic junk? Truly sad, especially in this serene charming countryside of Culross Township.

Family frolicking in the fun of festivities

It’s that time of year again … Time to get together early for Christmas because sKY is ready to go off on another winter adventure (usually into the warmth and sun somewhere in this world). However, this year is a bit different …. A few important factors have changed. Both Aaron, my sister, and David, my brother-in-law were unable to join slaDE, Blue, Forrester and myself. It definitely feels rather disjointed, but knowing that I’d see my younger sister next weekend was comforting.

This year, slaDE is a HUGE part of my plans for travel … My partner-in-life has equal billing in our decision to head west to the co-co-cold reaches of Calgary. Why did we opt for a chilly recluse rather than a luxurious retreat away? The money is the drawing factor … How can one turn down the opportunity for earning mass sums in a short span of time, which in turn will fund the beginnings of our dream life? That would be purchasing a truck and a travel trailer to journey the ends of this earth, skydiving and exploring our exciting nomadic lifestyle.

Back to the Christmas gathering … It was a lovely afternoon spent exchanging gifts in tucked away restaurant in Hanover with my Father making our little group complete (as it would be, that is). I loved my gifting idea of printing mass quantities of various photos for each member of our family from the last year, as well as burning a documentary disc for their perusal through the past.

A game of hackey in the Canadian Tire parking lot finished off our evening, before departing on our own way, slaDE and I readying ourselves mentally and physically for the big adventure and journey ahead of us.

Oh yes, Desperate Housewives was a repeat. Bah humbug ….

Stuff, stuff and more stuff

Okay, here we go again. Packing up to move. Exciting indeed. I do love change and all that it entails. However, with all the moving that I’ve done in the past, you would think that I’d have this down pat.
Guess again ….
How on earth does one accumulate so much stuff?? Ok, ok, I am the ULTIMATE pack rat (many will vouch for me there). And it really sucks when one moves a lot, as I do.

So I’ve found a list on “How to Buy Nothing“, and I’m checking it twice. Maybe this will be useful to me someday??
Peace out ….

Steps

  1. Make a budget and stick to it. Don’t treat your budget like a New Year’s resolution. While sticking to your budget will require sacrifices and self-control, it’s the only way to get your finances under control, and it will help you avoid accumulating a bunch of worthless crap in the process.
  2. Leave the money at home. The easiest way to not buy anything is simply not to take any cash, checks, or credit cards with you when you go out. At most, take only a small amount of cash with you for emergencies.
  3. Avoid plastic. The easiest solution is to live without credit cards. If you’re not comfortable with that, or if you want to hold credit cards to improve your credit, cut up your credit cards or leave them at home so you won’t use them unless it’s an emergency.
  4. Avoid unnecessary upgrades. Yes, that new toaster has a little bell and can toast eight slices at once, but seriously, how often do you need eight slices of toast? Our consumer culture pressures people to replace (and often throw out) perfectly good products with newer products for silly reasons, like fashion. Remember, an avocado-colored oven may work just as well as one that’s mango-colored.
  5. Try to get things you need or want for free. In a surprising number of cases you can get whatever you need without spending a dime.
      • Check local "free sales" or visit websites such as freecycle or craigslist. These sites are so useful precisely because people buy things they don’t need or replace perfectly good things with similar, newer things.
      • Try bartering. Your past extravagances have probably left you with a lot of things you no longer need, but which other people may want. Experience directly some of the gains from trade that economists are always talking about.
      • Borrow. If you just need a product for a short time, why not use someone else’s? There’s no shame in borrowing as long as you reciprocate when someone else needs to borrow something of yours.
  6. Ask yourself some questions. Will I use this every day? Will I use it enough for it to be worth buying? How many hours did I have to work to pay for this? Employ the 3-month forecast. Ask yourself if you’ll still be using the product regularly in 3 months. If you have lived this long without it, do you really need it? If you move frequently, contemplate whether this purchase is really worth hauling around each time you move.
  7. Avoid shopping malls altogether , if possible. If you need to purchase something, go to a store that sells that thing. Don’t just head for the mall, where you’ll likely get lured into buying other things you don’t need. If you just go to the mall to hang out, consider finding new hobbies.
  8. Use the buddy system. If you go out with friends, you may find that you enjoy yourselves so much that you don’t even feel like buying anything. You should all make a pact to prevent purchases. It’s kind of like a 12-step program to escape the consumer culture.
  9. Use the "rule of 7." If something you want is over 7 dollars, wait 7 days and ask 7 trusted people whether this is a good purchase. Then buy it if you still think it is a good idea. This rule will curtail impulse buying. As you get more financially secure and have a larger disposable income, you can gradually increase the threshold upward from 7 dollars.
  10. Examine your beliefs. Corporations invest billions of dollars yearly to persuade people to accept the religion of consumerism. It’s a religion that goes against the teaching of just about every other religion, belief system, or moral code. Think about what you really believe, and see if your decisions are motivated by your own code or by diet soda advertisements.
  11. Make gifts for people. Use your own talents or skills–or learn a new skill–to make gifts that people will remember long after they’ve forgotten store-bought presents. Remember the lesson of the magi: it really is the thought that counts. Money won’t buy you happiness or friends.

Tips

  • "Buy Nothing Day" is November 24, 2006 in North America and November 25th elsewhere. You can participate by not participating in the holiday shopping rush on that day.
  • Studies show the average person spends less when paying with hard currency, and much more when paying with credit – because when you use a credit card it feels as though you are not parting with anything real.
  • If you are roaming around potential danger zones (shopping malls, for instance), keep yourself engrossed in yourself so that you don’t focus on your surroundings. Concentrate on where you are going, but pay no attention to businesses like stores or restaurants.
  • Read books such as Why We Buy, so you can be hip to retailer tactics that are used to get people to buy things they do not need. Get the books at the library to avoid painful irony.
  • Can’t think of anyplace to hang out but the mall? Try visiting a friend, taking a walk on a nature trail, going to a free concert or event, or playing at the park. Your life can be richer in more ways than one if you eschew shopping centers.
  • Instead of renting movies, check your local library—many libraries offer a wide selection of movies for free.

http://www.wikihow.com/Buy-Nothing

Sushi-licious

I love it when a joint idea evolves into a plan, and that plan emerges into something beautiful. Such was our evening tonight.
My day started out bright and full of energy after attending my last exercise class at the St Jacobs Community Health Centre. I’ve only managed to go to 3 classes, but it’s 3 more classes than if I hadn’t have signed up. Groovy! Then the afternoon was spent with a joyful Joy, updating her MAC iBook (she too has been surviving on dial-up in Hawkesville. Trying to get any work done on dial-up is like having sex with a porcupine … slow and embarrassingly painful 🙂 ).
After our frivolous fun-filled afternoon, I enjoyed a surprisingly warm walk (mid-November teens?!) to the sushi restaurant …. what had enticed us to this venue was the fact that it’s an ‘all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant, all for the price of $20. Normally, I have a hard time getting my money’s worth at a buffet, but not tonight!! I (over-)indulged in platefuls of Sashimi (hold the rice on that there piece of raw fish), savoring each succulent morsel of heaven. Ye’s Sushi — I can’t rave enough about our experience. Although the ordering system is a bit funky, the service was quick, efficient and provided for a steady stream of yummy goodness.

Ye’s Sushi Japanese Restaurant
103 King St W
Kitchener, Ontario
(519) 568-7566

To top off a perfect evening, Gray’s Anatomy didn’t disappoint … Joy was kind enough to record the episode so that both slaDE and I could watch our favourite show in unison, without him missing out on his drum circle.

An incredible Poem

When your eyes are tired
The world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
No part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
Where the night has eyes to recognize its own.

There you can be sure you are not beyond love …

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement
Of your aloneness to learn

Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
Is too small for you.

David Whyte, from “Sweet Darkness

Life is like photography … it’s ALL about the framing

Joy and I enjoyed a lovely leisurely walk down the country lanes and roads of Hawkesville. I truly enjoy our jaunts; Joy is ever so patient and understanding when I erratically stop mid-sentence to capture that perfect picture. She noticed from day one that I have the eye of a quality photographer … I just don’t necessarily have the technical skills to enhance it non-digitally … YET! I am however playing and experimenting along the way. It’s all about the ‘Manual’.

And in pondering this further, I realized that photography is very similar to life … you can view the world through several lenses. You can look at the ‘ordinary’ and perceive, well, just that. Or you can search out the pearls and make the ordinary extraordinary. Life then becomes an adventure, in even the simplest of environments.

Precious beauty is found everywhere. One just have to look!

Pearls in a Pig Sty
I’m often asked, ‘How do you see photos in such everyday places and things?’

Gosh, tough to put into words. I’ve been involved with art and design for so long (literally my entire life since I grew up with it) that when I see art and design in the everyday, it catches my eye.

In other words, it’s rather like developing a knack for spotting pearls in a pig sty.

I view it this way because life, by its nature, is rather chaotic (a pig sty), so when I see something in the chaos that has form and balance, simplicity and order (the pearl), it almost smacks me in the face because it seems so out of place with what’s around it.

Then it’s rather like zooming your attention in on the ‘pearl’, shutting out for a time all the ‘sty’ that’s around it, and then deciding if the pearl has enough merit to bother taking it or not.

Simple as that. ;-).

Gordon L Wolford
http://www.pbase.com/merriwolf/pearls

Ode to the pancake

Slade was my hero today … despite the lack of sleep and his desire to lie in bed (for in at least 1 day of this week), he opted for the pull of a 1/2 day of overtime, traveling all the way to Hamilton. Our burgeoning dream of travel in a truck and trailer spurs him on, even in the most difficult of motivating times.

Wow, what a weekend this has turned to be. Joy was joyful in her exuberance to go for a walk with both John and myself on this chilly morning. 8am has come early … Boy, I was hopeful for a morning of luxurious quiet, but enjoyed our brisk pace as we were bypassed by a plethora of buggies on their way to church. In a flurry of cleaning up and savouring the peace, all was quiet until Anshu and Melinda (who had spent the night, enjoying the warmth of the fireplace) roused themselves to wakefulness. We made our way to Ed’s for a pancake breakfast, first stopping at John’s studio, admiring his hand-blown works of art and craftsmanship. It was kinda neat to find slaDE already there … I thought we’d make it there first, but we lollygagged, enjoying our lovely surroundings.

The pancakes were organic and filling, made with hemp protein and spelt flour. For someone who has never enjoyed pancakes, Ed has conquered and mastered the art of pancake-making! Lathering them in organic blueberries, bananas, maple syrup and butter made them a luxurious treat. The splendid hike through the forest was intense with photo taking and laughter. Ed’s hot pink wool sweater (adorned with brown horses) made for a colourful backdrop to hilarity and ardent conversation. I must admit, with 2 children (Oden and Tyrnen) accompanying our large group of friends, we had the best hike in my 10 years of coming to the farm. We topped the healthy day off with a long splendid cleanse in the farm sauna and pond. Burr! Sweaty naked bodies regaled stories of friendship and interesting insights in the midst of a steamy wooden vault .

Again slaDE and I made it back in time for yummy potluck leftovers and our weekly enjoyment of Desperate Housewives (slaDE might debate his enjoyment, yet he endures in good humour the episodes that we watch).

Celebration and Remembrance, potluck style

A day of remembrance. The 11th day, at the 11th hour, the 11th minute … I hung my head in emotional meditation and commemoration, recognizing and paying homage to those that have lost their lives, making the ultimate sacrifice for their country and people. I feel embarrassed at my own shortcomings, noting their acts of unselfishness and dedication. However, I still feel VERY strongly about war being an unnecessary act of power hungry individuals who resort to (political and/or religious) violence with little or no thought put into acts of peace (which I believe are a necessity in our world and lives … we need solutions!).

I am remarkably happy to be hosting a dinner party that honours my friends on this day. A gathering of friendship, irreplaceable and fantastic. I was saddened by the inability of many to attend, but at a turnout of 14, we still managed to fill the house with laughter and warm memories.

The food was magnificent, the company spectacular, the conversations free-flowing and the laughter and love, priceless. Tsumi fared remarkably well in the presence of so many strangers. Her senses must have been overloaded. It was lovely to see her mingle and not be spooked by the new energy.

Suzanne summarized the evening best …. it was if we had rented a cabin for the weekend, amongst friends. The fireplace culminated the experience in warmth enveloping. Yes, life is blessed and good.

Sandy & Tad, Lisa and Mike x2, Blue & David, Aaron, Dad & Karen, Mom & Pat, Boz and Liv, Tanis & Puran, Glori, Rod, Joshua, Colin, Nick, Jag, James, Tanya, Jimmy T & Nancy, Jennifer & Eric, Deb & Peter, Marya & Scott, JoDee, Karen & Jeremy, Carol & Ed, Joey & Laura, Dwayne & Lisa, Anne & Brent, Kathie & Terri, Kelly & Marty, Sharon & James, Sherry & Brett

You were all lovingly missed and remembered on this day of memorial celebration. slaDE and I really look forward to our next chance to get together with you all and share in our friendship. Thanks for all of your kind well-wishes for our Calgary-bound journey this winter.

Passing storms

What a great morning … teaching Ms Daisy about the joys of podcasts (science/anatomy lessons on demand. Inspiring!) and just spending quality time with my amazing girlfriend (superMom, Nutritionist, skydiver, schedule juggler, student extraordinaire). Her twin daughters received iPods for their birthdays, and rather than have Daisy research the music device’s capabilities on the internet, I thought it might be fun to teach her a techie thing or two. I love my iPod and despite it being an older generation model, am happy to have the usefulness of a 60gig iPod and the space to listen to music, to my heart’s content.

One interesting and important tidbit of information that I discovered this past week about the iPod is one’s ability to lose one’s hearing so quickly with an iPod blasting full strength …. At 5 mins a day, full-on, a person can lose their hearing really quickly over a relative short span of time. It’s better to reduce the noise setting and invest in noise reducing earbuds to prolong one’s ear health. Something that I never put much thought into, listening to my iPod at full-strength when walking outside, trying to dodge the noise of traffic and such.

Daisy told us the story of her experience with the Buffalo storm that hit our two countries recently. It had knocked out her power for 5 days, flooding her basement (wet carpet and mould, ugh) and wreaking havoc on her house, pool and backyard. With no heat or electricity, the family of 5 plus boyfriend huddled within the confines of two rooms (sheets holding the warmth in from the rest of the freezing house), kept warm only by a fireplace and the gas stove. How she survived the chaos of 4 energetic children stranded in 2 rooms full-on with little food and warmth, amazes me. Her boyfriend was a hero in driving to Ohio to pick up a generator, giving them some comfort in their last few stormy days. I’m constantly amazed by her energy, tenacity, patience and dedication. Truly incredible.

I so enjoy sharing the company of my best friend when the sun is shining and we have much to celebrate in our lives. Magnificent friends, joyful times, fabulous memories.