Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Dad

Passed away in his sleep yesterday, after a long battle with emphysema and COPD. We are terribly sad.

Finally he is peace.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the move

Today my sister is moving. This month my daughter is moving. Next month I am moving.

Yesterday I went to my sister's house to help her with final packing and cleaning. My sister has moved more than anyone I know, and each move involved purging - but she still has a lot of stuff to pack up and move. This time she is moving back to our hometown of Niagara Falls. She's even moving back to the same street we grew up on, although a different house. Brings back a lot of memories every time I drive around that area.

I remember my school, my friends, and playing in the park. I remember riding my tricycle down the sidewalk, and jumping off the stoop on the front porch. I remember the neighborhood grocery store, and how my mother always got the butcher to cut the steak 1.5" thick.

My daughter is moving to a subdivision close to her dad. My grandmother once lived in that subdivision. Their home is off one of the main roads that cut through the subdivision - a road I've used many times, especially to get to the Italian bakery for some crusty bread. They have a park and green space nearby, and will live on a quiet crescent. Close to schools, shopping and restaurants, a perfect place to raise a family.

Although I will be 'moving', I'm really just taking my stuff out of my condo in St Catharines and either hauling it down to Mexico in suitcases, giving it away, or selling it on Kijiji. I will have to store some stuff at my daughter's until I can get it all down to Mexico. I hope to be able to start renting my condo by January. We'll see how it goes, if it doesn't work out I can always sell instead.

With each trip to Canada I've taken stuff back to Mexico. Until recently it mostly sat in the dining room, cluttering up the table and desk and stressing me out every time I had to look at it. Before I went to Norway I was determined to get a handle on it. The bookcase is now clean and neat, the desk is somewhat decluttered, and all the 'stuff' on the dining room table has been sorted and put into baskets for further processing. My best intentions are to keep it that way.

So life in Canada is being lived in disarray right now. I am no longer much of a consumer, so buying new stuff to add to the clutter is not going to be a problem. If only I could get rid of all the paperwork required to be kept on file for taxes. Actually, if only I could get rid of taxes!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baby Shower

I was only on Isla for two days between Norway and Canada. Not enough time to make it worthwhile to shop for groceries for dinners. So, what did we do? We did what we often do when we're hungry and there's nothing to eat in the house - we went to La Bruja.

As has been the case many days during this very low of low seasons, we were the only ones there on Wednesday. Dona Mari and the two waitresses were seated at one of the bigger tables making something with beads. Each of them took turns being our waitress, including Dona Mari.

When it was time to leave Miguel told them that I was off again to Canada. So I chimed in, wanting to tell them that I was going back for Jen's baby shower. Only I didn't know how to say baby shower in Spanish, so it went something like this...

"Voy a Canada por ver a mi hija, ella es embarazada. Vamos hacer una fiesta por su nino, con regalos". (I'm going to Canada to see my daughter, she's pregnant. We going to have a party for her baby, with gifts).

"Oh", replied Dona Mari. "Baby Shower". In perfect English, even though Dona Mari doesn't speak English. Since there is no Spanish equivalent for "baby shower", they have adopted our words, and they say it perfectly. "Baby Shower" - so simple.

On Thursday we were running errands, taking a nap, and keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Richard, which at the time looked like it was going to be a hurricane right at us. We decided to eat again at La Bruja, so after Miguel made his rounds of his houses, he headed down the east side towards the street where we turn to go to La Bruja.

Except he kept going. I asked where he was going, and he was going to do a tour of the south end of the island. It was sunset, so it was beautiful despite the chill from the north winds. When we got to the west side, where we turn to go to La Bruja, he kept going. By then he'd forgotten we hadn't yet eaten and was heading home.

Finally we pulled up to La Bruja and the iron door was closed. Yup, it was Thursday, the day where they take the later part of the day off. But the family was all seated inside, relaxing and enjoying visiting with each other. They called out, "Come!".

They opened up for us, and took our order. As we waited for our food, another couple came along. And then a golf cart loaded with about 8 people pulled up. La Bruja and the family were not going to get their day of rest after all, but they were happy. This has been a very tough year for everyone, and the business was most welcome. All the family headed to the kitchen to help with the food preparation, and the son became the waiter. A real family-run Mexican diner.
Now I'm in Canada and today I'm going to Jen's baby shower. It's just the females on my side of the family - so rather small, about 7 of us. I spent yesterday afternoon buying baby stuff, and later Jen and I went to Babies R Us to pick up some larger items from her wish list.

Like this Lamb swing/cradle:

Notice the little lamb ears up on the head cushion. Can't wait to see baby Kyle in his swing.

This morning I'm off to buy food for the shower. I've eaten my breakfast - finished off a bag of cheesies that I started yesterday. Again - no food in the house. Where's La Bruja when I need it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A little tired

On Tuesday we got up at 3 am, ate some toast, and left the condo in Norway at 4 am (Norway time - 7 hrs ahead of Isla time) - our pre-arranged taxi was even a few minutes early.

I had told my brother and sister about the delicious apple danish they have at the Trondheim airport. My brother was connecting through Oslo so we went our separate ways after the security check. "Remember the strudel", I called after him.

My sister and I made our way to the KLM side of the airport - on our way to our Amsterdam connection. I bought the apple strudel, danish...whatever...and cut a piece for my sister. It was just as delicious as always and I enjoyed every last crumb. I found out later that my brother didn't find the danish - they claimed not to know anything about it over on his side of the airport. Poor thing - doesn't know what he missed.

On the flight to Amsterdam, KLM gave us rolls with cheese. Breakfast # 3 -the least favorite. But no worries, because I was already planning breakfast #4 - the Quiche Lorraine at the cafe near the Yotel Hotel on the second level at the Amsterdam airport. On our way through Amsterdam, on the way to Norway, I ate one of those quiches, and it was probably the best quiche in my life. Breakfast # 4 did not disappoint, it was great.

We called my dad while I was eating the quiche, and he asked me how many breakfasts I'd eaten. I confessed to having eaten 4 breakfasts in the space of 6 hours, although they were all small, if that matters. I would not eat again until they served me on the next flight, which would not be until about 3 pm Norway time.

I got lucky again on the flight home and had two seats to myself, allowing me to pull up my legs and get my feet off the floor and reduce the swelling. I can't say I was really comfortable but it was better than only having one seat, and I was able to doze off now and then. I also watched a forgettable movie on my personal entertainment system that was included with my comfort class ticket - the movie helped the last hours of the 11 hour flight go by a little faster.

I arrived on Isla around 8 pm. Two busy days sorting things out at the house and on Thursday evening I took the ferry back to Cancun to spend the night at the Marriott Courtyard, courtesy of my Marriott points. My flight out to Canada the next day was at 6:30 am. Luis, our Cancun taxi driver picked me up at the ferry, took me to the hotel, and kept my big suitcase in his trunk so I wouldn't have to lug it up to my room. At 4 am the next morning he was at the hotel to take me to the airport. Having a taxi driver like Luis, especially when traveling alone at night, makes things so much more relaxed.

I arrived in Toronto at 3 pm yesterday, and was picked up by my St Catharines taxi driver Armando. We took the toll road to avoid the rush hour traffic, and I was at the condo by 4:30 pm. A quick greeting to Jen before I left to hit the bank and the grocery store, back at the condo to eat dinner with Jen (all prepared food bought at the grocery store - pretty darn good too!), and then I crashed on the couch.

It was just supposed to be a nap, but it turned into an all-night marathon of sleep. I guess I needed it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

From Norway

Here we are, my sister, brother, father, and me. I won't include our step-mother in this crazy mix, she's an innocent bystander, at least when it comes to family dynamics.

Funny how the years have not changed us much. When we were kids I always had to sit between my brother and sister in the back seat of the car - to keep them from fighting. I am still the quiet one, the older sister in the middle of a bickering brother and sister. At least they aren't fist fights, just little snippets back and forth. Nothing serious, just sibling stuff.

My dad, despite his frail health, is still the head of the household. He sits in his hospital chair, with his oxygen mask, but still manages to give us our chores - load this program, copy these pictures, find his email addresses, charge his camera, change the tires on the car, etc. Occasionally we don't quite get what he's asking for, and he barks at us...and we jump.

He hasn't lost his sense of humor. He still gets a charge out of scaring the nurses. He told us that when they were moving him from one area to another and had to reconnect his oxygen, just as the nurse went to put the tubing on the adaptor, my dad said "Boom!", and the nurse jumped and ran out of the room.

I guess this runs in the family, because yesterday my brother was putting a plug in the wall, and as he pushed on the plug, both he and I went "Zzzzttttttt" at the same time, and my brother jolted his body like he'd been shocked, trying to scare everyone in the room. My sister was the only one fooled by this.

Although my dad is happy to have us all visit, he is most eager when it's time to leave. Time to leave comes upon us quickly, dictated by the call of nature. "Go, go now!", orders my father. And we all scramble to collect our belongings and get the heck out of his room so he can attend to his needs.

We bought my dad an ipad, a gift we thought he might enjoy, especially to look at pictures. The screen on the ipad is wonderful - photos look great and he and our step-mother have really enjoyed looking at all the pictures. With technology comes challenges, and our visits have turned into technological sessions - wifi issues, voltage adaptors, uploads, downloads, program installations, configurations, extension cords, ipod touch, and cell phones. All cords and chargers are arranged on the side table within easy reach.

The hospital is new and modern - the room has a tv that is internet-enabled. But how does someone use a touch-screen tv when seated in a chair across the room? My dad has a secret weapon - his gopher. The other day he demonstrated how he uses the tip of his gopher to change channels, push icons, and put his tv into full-screen mode. And he's become an expert.

My dad is the control center of life here in Norway. Even though he is sitting in the hospital, he calls on a regular basis to see what we are up to, to pass along requests, and to tell us how he is doing. I remember the old days when hospitals were unfriendly places and people had to get special permission to bring in something as simple as a radio, first getting the electricians in the hospital to check out the cords and put a stamp of approval on the device. Cell phones were not permitted for anyone. How things have changed, and thank goodness for that - the patient is able to maintain some control over their life even if they can't get out and about during their hospitalization. So much better than just sitting idle and bored, waiting for nurses, doctors, medicines, and visitors.

Tomorrow is our last day here. We are still hoping for some sunshine so my brother can take some stunning pictures of the views and the wooden homes. We are hoping to find a frozen pie shell, and if not, the ingredients to make pastry - we promised my dad a piece of pumpkin pie. We will get the tires changed, and try to find a drugstore and an eyeglass store to pick up some items requested by my dad. And we will try to eat as much of the leftover food as possible. Anything to oblige.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Social Overlap

There is one problem with using Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, and that is that people who follow you on all the social networks you belong to, will get tired reading the same subject matter on each of the forums.

So for those of you who read my blurb on Facebook yesterday, I apologize. But to be true to my blog and my broom 'fetish', as one Facebook friend called it, I must post this picture:

The broom is hanging over one of the streets near the baseball field. How it got there, or why, is anyone's guess, but I'll take a whack at guessing what happened.

- an angry wife, while telling her lazy slob of a husband to get off his duff and do something, claiming she'd had enough of waiting on him, slammed the broom across her knee and tossed it out the window. The broom just happened to find a grip to prevent itself from falling to the street below.

- the broom was being used to chase cockroaches, and when the head of the broom was smushed at the cockroach, the handle broke. So the broom was tossed out the window.

- the broom was used to smack a naughty child on the butt, and the handle broke. And the broom was tossed out the window.

Any of the above could be true, but it's the 'tossed out the window' part that I don't quite buy.

Maybe, as one Facebook friend commented, "poor broom was probably replaced by a Swiffer and took its own life". A broom suicide by hanging. Hmmm...that just might explain it...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Graduation Ceremony

On Thursday the school called to inform Miguel that the next night (last night), they would be presenting certificates to the graduates of secundario (junior high).

Miguel studied numerous subjects over almost a year, and passed his last test in the summer. Now he has the papers to show for his hard work.

Next - bachilleres, senior high.

Monday, October 4, 2010

50 pesos

Recently we paid for a service we use several times a year. The man who provides the service has not raised his prices in years. He is a lovely person who is providing support money to the mother of his grandson, because his own son prefers to get drunk rather than fulfill his parental obligations.

When the grandchild is sick, it's a paid passage to Cancun, a 500 peso consultation with the doctor, and then however much is needed to fill the prescription for medication to treat the ill child. I know from personal experience that the medication often costs more than the consultation. Going to the doctor is one thing, following up on the advice is another, especially when there is a shortage of cash.

This man also feeds hungry cats and dogs out of his hard-earned money. Right now, in this slow season for locals, his on-the-side work is poor - few people can afford the service he provides, and so his funds are even tighter. He himself needs dental work, but after paying for kids and animals, and feeding himself, there is little left for luxury. And yet he still tells me that if we need the service but don't have the money, don't worry - he will still come and we can pay when we do have the money.

And so, even though our own funds are tight, when I paid for the service the other day, I also handed him the same 50 peso tip that we've always given him. Normally he would thank me for the tip, but this day he kissed the 50 peso bill and bowed with thanks. He said "this means much more than you know".

That's where he's wrong. Actually, I do know. Slow season, season of 'hambres' (Sept-hambre, Oct-hambre), affects all of us depending on the tourist industry. I've always been a tip-giver, but have never been in the type of work to be a tip-receiver. Until now.

Occasionally our guests leave a token of thanks, and being on the receiving end of a tip, in these difficult financial times for everyone (including our guests), has given me a greater appreciation of the sincere gratitude felt by those I tip. I appreciate the tip, and the thought behind it. More than our guests would ever know.

In fact, perhaps I tip a little more because I understand how much that little bit extra can mean.

50 pesos to us means enough chicken breast for 4 or 5 meals, with scraps fed to the dogs or cats.

50 pesos pays for eggs, tortillas, a tomato, an onion, a pepper...a breakfast meal for a family, with some left over.

50 pesos buys 4 tamales - a meal for an elderly couple.

For many families, 50 pesos pays the monthly water bill.

So there you have it, my two cents...or rather, in these tough times, my 50 pesos.