Tag Archives: humor

The Salvagers

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Yvonnes Musings

imagesMy father, a major restorer of order and tidiness to all things within his reach, had done an amazing thing for a man with his character traits. He had taken something built by someone else’s hands and torn it down. One day it stood as a testament to the hard work of the many hands that had made it, and the next day it was a scattered heap, lying across the ground.

The enormous elevated barrel— the water tower next to the CNR tracks, in nearby Strathroy, was where steam locomotives had filled their tanks with water for generations. It was no longer necessary when diesel engines took over. The tower was up for grabs, and our dad’s bid won. After careful planning and consultation with his Uncle Fred, a lifelong railroad man with many skills himself, the measurements were all worked out, and the distance of the fall was calculated…

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My Own Personal Annus Horribilus

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I still remember the Queen’s 1992 yearly Christmas address, when she let down her guard and referred to her “Annus Horribilus”. Not to make light of such a serious thing or to make it the butt of jokes, but it certainly did have the ability to bring one to attention.

Those not schooled in Latin could be forgiven for misunderstanding, for thinking at first that the term meant something else entirely. Suffice it to say, the Queen had been having a terrible time of it. There are some situations for which no preparation ever seems adequate, not even Preparation …. Well, I’ll just let you finish that train of thought yourself… if you are cursed, as I am, with a train that always stops somewhere near Redneck Humor.

At a certain level, I do realize that an annus horribilus should never be a laughing matter. “Never!” (So say the voices of Wisdom and Decorum.) Unfortunately for me, when I hear voices (which I do on occasion) they are not always reasonable or polite.

Heck, let’s just own up to the fact that when I hear them in the middle of the night they sometimes say things that a decent Bible believing Christian lady should never listen to… stuff like “Kill him!” or “Just hide the stash under the mattress!” or—- Heaven forbid that I  should allow these last words to subliminally affect me— “Nobody flips mattresses anymore!” (Everyone knows that the flippable need to be flipped every so often, in order to maintain some kind of balance in your life! Otherwise you will experience far too many hills and valleys!)

Fortunately, some steps that I have recently taken have almost entirely eliminated those night-time voices. Now I only hear them if the earplugs I use for sleeping fall out, at the same time that the batteries die in my spouse’s earphones. These he uses for TV viewing after I’ve gone to bed. If the batteries die he turns the TV’s volume back on, but only to its lowest setting. All is well until he dozes off..

That’s when the soothing voice of David Attenborough, softly narrating in a gentle whisper about the secret life of the silver-back gorilla, suddenly morphs into screaming and cursing. Somehow two rival gang members are always fighting a turf war, or the Kardashians are at it again. So it is, whenever a recorded show ends and the programming on the channel that was previously on resumes. Meanwhile, my domesticated Canadian silver-back snores away in his comfy Lazyboy chair. Who can blame him? He is tired. He has had his own personal experience with an annus horribilus, one every bit as trying as my own.

If you are going to have to endure an annus horribilus which literally translates “horrible year”, a year of great adversity, then you are indeed wise if you take it with a hefty dose of laughter. Otherwise it is too difficult a thing to cope with. As my wise Mom, aged 86, often says when reflecting on some of the difficult situations she has gone through in her own life “It was so hard at times, that if you didn’t laugh you would have cried.”

For myself and my beloved spouse Rolly, the beginning of our difficult year actually began a short while before New Year’s, on December 23rd of 2014. That day I went through a surgery for a minor ankle problem, the removal of a benign cyst. Mine was the hospital’s last surgery of the year and the doctor seemed extremely rushed to get himself elsewhere. He actually yelled at the nurse in attendance, who had bent down to ask if I was comfortable: “Why are you talking to that patient!?” Loud enough to make me want to answer him back from my mildly sedated, but still  quite aware state: “Because she thinks of me as a person, you dolt!” But, as he had a scalpel in his hand at the time, I restrained myself.

After the surgery, much to the recovery room nurse’s dismay, he left the hospital, forgetting to leave any post-op instructions or even a prescription for pain medication. She did her best to remedy the situation and even called later to check on me at home. By the next day, due to excessive bleeding it was obvious that something was very wrong. This turned into a marathon of long grueling visits to the ER. at the most understaffed time of the year, the Christmas holidays.

On Christmas Eve day, after a seven hour wait, I finally saw a doctor. He discovered that some of the sutures had not held together, but doing them over again was, by then, out of the question. He taped things back together and requested a return visit. That visit took three hours, another one, four, and on New Year’s Day it was five hours more. In a crowded waiting room full of coughing patients, it was inevitable that I should pick up a bad respiratory virus which, unfortunately, lasted for several weeks.

A deep infection of the incision, which developed at the outset, took three months of nurse’s visits for wound care. Despite their expert care I suffered nerve damage to the right side of my foot. The upside is that it has reduced the pain of stubbing my toes by 20%. ( I no longer have any feeling in the “Roast Beef” and the “ Wee! Wee! Wee! All the way home!” digits.) Try telling that to your physician some time. If he writes it in his notes you should probably get another doctor!

Because I had not healed sufficiently, a vacation in the Azores, for our first off-the-continent holiday for a Valentine’s day get away had to be canceled. Due to its bargain price our flights were, unfortunately, not refundable. But, also due to its bargain price, it was not as bad a financial jolt as it could have been either.

Rolly had gone through a knee surgery several months earlier which initially  helped with his knee pain but then the pain returned again. He was on the waiting list for a knee replacement. The redeeming factor in missing our holiday was that an unexpected opening became available for a surgery at that time, several months ahead of schedule. If we had been in the Azores then we would have missed that opportunity.

The operation was done by a very competent surgeon on February 12th, in the afternoon. The morning after surgery a big blizzard began to move across South Western Ontario. As it was expected to localize over Strathroy, and the hospital was already short-staffed, they requested that Rolly go home a day early. So it was, that only 14 hours after surgery, the poor man was already at home on the couch, heavily medicated, with his leg propped up on several pillows covered in ice bags. There would be no shortage of ice— even if the power should go off; there was plenty of it outside!

Our calendar was quite cluttered for a while with my wound care appointments and Rolly’s, for physiotherapy. He worked extremely hard to regain his mobility, but unfortunately he turned out to be one of those people who builds up a lot of scar tissue around the replacement knee. He required a second hospitalization for three days, for another procedure a few months later. This was followed by more physiotherapy appointments at the hospital. He requires a replacement for the other knee as well but wants to postpone that one as long as possible.

One day, when I tagged along, we went to visit my mother in Strathroy. This was the day I discovered what it is like to break a bone. In all my scurrying around to help her with a few tasks, I took a flying header towards the floor, right where the carpet and the tile floor meet. Unfortunately, the carpet in her Senior’s apartment is laid over cement and so I had a very hard landing.

My mother gave me a bag of rhubarb to hold over my throbbing wrist– not because of some quirky folk healing notion— it just happened to be thawing in the sink  (she was making pies.) Rolly rushed me off to the hospital and I dripped a long stream all over the floor and down the hall to a cubicle. No…not what you are thinking! When they finally brought me some ice I surrendered my punctured bag of drippy rhubarb ( much to the nurse’s amusement.) Perhaps it was the rhubarb juice, or perhaps the ice, but in any case, there was very little swelling of the wrist when the cast was applied.

Unfortunately the swelling set in later with a vengeance. It became so severe that the cast began to hinder my circulation and eventually had to be cut off. The exact same thing happened with the second cast, which then had to be cut in half and bound together with elastic bandages. This eventually had to be replaced by a third cast when it began to fall apart. So, for almost eight weeks I stayed plastered, until finally it was over. What a sobering experience that was! I was totally shocked at my complete inability to write, to type, or to use my right hand for the simplest of tasks, even stirring a pot! The fingers had lost all their ability to grasp anything.

It was certainly difficult, but with the help of an excellent physiotherapist, over many weeks, I finally regained my independence– enough to return to the kitchen to resume my duties as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (as my dear old Dad used to call it.) And so it was that I immediately gave myself a bone-deep incision on my left thumb knuckle, while attempting to cut up a semi-frozen turkey. Back to the Emergency Room for three sutures, and then home again, where I received a lecture on knife safety from my chef daughter, who is also the safety instructor over several kitchens at her workplace. In two weeks I will have what I hope will be my last visit with my physiotherapist for my wrist fracture. This would have happened sooner if I had not needed to postpone. It seems I picked up another respiratory virus  in, (Surprise! Surprise!) the doctor’s waiting room while waiting to get those sutures!

Sure, Rolly and I have had a difficult year, but there wasn’t much we could do about it, and so we laughed… Mind you we didn’t laugh in the moment as each trial, difficulty, or pain bowled us over, but when we got through it we did.

It’s kind of like what happens when you go into rough water at the beach, and you fall down and get washed in and out with the surf, as you try to get back up again. And then your swim suit gets so full of gravel that the stones clog the drain at the cottage and your son-in law asks you “What the heck happened here?” You can only laugh. At least that’s what you do when you finally get your breathing under control again and can see the humor in the situation.

“Imagine that! Almost drowning in a foot of water!” my mother said to me. And we laughed together at her tale of her “near-death experience.” Because both of us know that the water doesn’t have to be deep to drown you. You just have to lay down and let it. But even with her pants full of rocks she didn’t!

And then we both laughed until we cried.

To Eat Or Not To Eat? That Is The Question

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The Wild Game Dinner Fundraiser for the Historical Society was to be historically accurate.

The Wild Game Dinner Fundraiser for the Historical Society was to be historically accurate.

The poster featuring the pen and ink drawn collage of wild animals said “Wild Game Dinner” in bold print and had images of a raccoon, a deer, a bear, a moose, a wild turkey, a fish, a beaver and a number of other members of the Ontario wildlife population. When Rolly saw it he said “That looks interesting. Let’s see if we can get tickets.” There’s something about a holiday away from home that seems to turn the brain to mush in much the same way that prions do. Prions are those indestructible little disease-causers that are neither a virus nor a bacteria. They can’t even be sterilized to death by boiling them! I’ve read that deer and moose can get the very same disease as cows do from prions— Mad Cow Disease. But it’s called something else— “Mad Moose Disease” maybe? Not likely, but I know the technical name is “Something- Spongiform- Something.”  Sounds a lot like “spongy form” or in other words “Mushy Brain” to me! I’m not enthusiastic, but Rolly is excited at the prospect of a Northern adventure of any sort, and this is a possible option.

The only way to get those dinner tickets to what is in effect a fund-raiser for the local historical society is by calling the number on the poster. Lucky me! There is no phone at the cottage, and I also do not have a cell phone, as my goal for this holiday was to disconnect and de-stress for a while. Unfortunately there is a pay phone directly across from the Food land store’s bulletin board. The message on the other end asks us to leave our name and number so they can get back to us. A reprieve!

I wonder if rednecks get that name from using public pay phones. I feel so contaminated when I get back to the car that I rub hand sanitizer on the area of my neck, ear and face that I feel may have been in contact with the phone, and I am getting a bit of a reaction to it by the time the groceries are unpacked. “Oh well: I think to myself, “It could be a lot worse to get impetigo or poison ivy from some Junior Ranger using the phone to beg his parents to come pick him up. I think of this because our daughter Carrie was not far from here in a Junior Ranger camp when she was 17. Despite her petitions for a phone call home, after a second degree sunburn that took weeks to heal, she was persuaded to “Just suck it up.” by the youthful and rather inexperienced staff. If things are the same now as they were then, contact with parents except for the half day visit in week four of the eight week program were discouraged. Letters? Yes. Phone calls? No. Of course there are cell phones now which are smaller than the cracker box sized things they used to be.They are likely every where in Junior Ranger camps now, whether they’re forbidden or not.

It all looks good in here Rocky! No hot dogs!

It all looks good in here Rocky! No hot dogs!

I guess I went off on a tangent for a bit there, and likely by now you’ve got the impression that I’m a bit of a germaphobe. Sadly, that would be correct. Not only can I not imagine eating raccoon because I think it akin to eating something like a cat, and therefore terribly wrong, but I wouldn’t eat something known for its appetite for garbage. Although in the classic John Candy movie The Great Outdoors where the raccoons are used as comedic characters with paraphrased dialogue as they sort through the garbage, one wisely issues a warning to the others to not eat the hotdogs, because “You know what they’re made out…” So perhaps they are really a lot more picky than we think. Then again it was hardly a National Geographic documentary.

In general I am always a bit insecure at potluck dinners. I can’t help but wonder “Did they cook it and hold it at safe temperature? Did they take all measures to avoid salmonella, e coli and other problems?” If they are family and friends my level of trust is enough that I can partake and enjoy most of the the meal. If they are strangers I tend to avoid the meat, the salad with dressings, the devilled eggs. What about these total strangers who will be preparing a meal of wild game? With all the nightmare diseases that I happen to know you can get from eating improperly cooked meat from certain wild animals, from watching every episode of all eight seasons of House, things like tularemia, brucellosis and trichinosis, it would certainly be unlikely that I could get a bite of anything past my lips that isn’t a cooked vegetable or a dinner roll.

Still, according to the poster on the bulletin board, the funds raised will be going to restore an old historic pioneer church built in 1888, so maybe I should agree with Rolly’s suggestion that we try to reach the person with the tickets by phone again tomorrow when we’re back in town. After all, meeting some of the locals should be fun, and I can always do what I’ve done before with meals I can’t manage to eat. Push it around a lot to different places on the plate while talking non-stop and nobody really seems to notice what I’m eating, or even if I’m not eating at all. Then I rumple my napkin and throw it partly over the plate as I say something like “I couldn’t possibly eat another mouthful!” without a single pang of conscience over telling an untruth (which, of course, I haven’t!)

It’s only now, having reread that last bit, that I realize that I probably have never offended anyone much by not eating my food, at times when they may have noticed. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that they may have said afterward “That Yvonne! She’s such a blabber mouth! I wondered if she was ever going to shut up!”  Well, just blame it on the prions! Apparently you can’t know if they are actually there until after you are dead and they do an autopsy.(That is, other people can’t know.) Obviously that information isn’t all that helpful to you at that point either, except perhaps for a little revisionist character redemption.

I can just imagine it…“That Yvonne was such a non-stop talker. But she couldn’t help herself you know. We thought all along that the governor on her motor mouth was defective. But in the end it turned out to be just the prions.”

Mind Your Language Or Everyone Else Will!

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imagesBeans, beans, the musical fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot,

The more you toot, the better you’ll feel,

So let’s eat beans for every meal!

If you grew up in the fifties the word fart was a dirty word, the word toot was not. I guess the rules went something like this. Because you can make a musical instrument toot, that is an OK word to use in public. Until the adults in your life start saying things like “You might as well fart your own horn, because nobody else is going to do it for you.” you had better not say the word fart, (but toot is OK). Still, toot isn’t half the word you need to describe what your big brother can do with a tuba when the minister and his wife come by for a visit. All the beans in all the chili in Chicoutami couldn’t let rip with a better evening’s entertainment than the sounds coming from his room when he has just the right audience listening to him practice. It would make anyone question whether the dictionary’s description of the tuba as a “bassinstrument was a spelling mistake. It gave The Jolly Dutchman, his latest  favourite, a really bad reputation.

Of course, the very logic of a child requires that he use every forbidden word his little ears have ever heard, and with as much frequency as he can muster. Otherwise, he is never going to become an adult. So learning to talk is going to be a lot like how he learns to do everything else.

“No! No Jimmy! No stairs! Mummy will carry you up.” is how it all begins, with lots and lots of “no-nos”. But little Jimmy won’t ever forget the day that he finally sneaks off and crawls up those stairs. After Mummy runs a big figure eight around the tables in the kitchen and dining room, bending over and pulling out the chairs, she runs upstairs herself . She’s so surprised, excited and thrilled to find him headed straight for the toilet bowl, where he knows that he will soon  be able to stand up and splash water onto his face  just like he sees Daddy do at the higher one right next to it every morning. She swoops him up in a big hug, and he thinks to himself “My Mummy never wants me to do these new things, like grabbing my spoon, or climbing up and down the stairs at first, but she is always so happy when I finally do. She’s a strange one, my mum!”

“No! No Jimmy! No bad words!”

“Hmmm. Just like everything else I want to learn to do, I think Mummy wants to say my words for me too! But I’m a big boy now! I can walk, and climb the stairs, and even wash my face if I want to, and Mummy is always so-o happy when I show off what I can do. F – – -”

“Jim! Get in here right away! This kid just said ‘Fart’! Who taught him that? It must have been someone on your side of the family! That Chicoutimi* bunch! They just have no class!”

* My apologies to any of you who are from Chicoutimi. I’m sure you are no more flatulent, nor do you celebrate your flatulence in song, story (or congratulatory remark when called for) any more frequently than the rest of Canada. Nor, have I ever been to Chicoutimi, Quebec and therefore I have no substantiating evidence of there being a flatulence problem there, I have however been down wind from Hull, Quebec and I cannot say the same. I have been told that your sulphurous vapours are the result of a paper mill in your town, and therefore you are forgiven.Trying to break down too much fibre is notorious for causing that problem. Maybe you just need a little song to lighten things up a bit.

Hull!  Hull!  You stinky old town!

Don’t let your odor get you down!

With Dr. Oz pushing for beans in our diet

Why take all the blame. Now you can deny it!