Sunday, December 31, 2023

Approaching the New Year with Some Trepidation

 We had a great Christmas, lots of visiting, holding Grayden and food food food. Tomorrow we start a new year and I can only hope it is an improvement on 2023. However I ha' me doots. But we'll give it a go and there is always hope!


This song, written by Dolly Parton, is covered by two young Ukrainians from Odessa, sixteen-year-old Dasha Butenko singing with fifteen-year-old Nazar Baranov playing guitar. The pictures of Ukrainian children and youths are of those who found hope through and Robert Gamble. Dr Gamble went from Pastor of a huge megachurch in Florida to a man dedicated to serving young Ukrainians in need in Odessa. I do not have rights to this song nor permission to post it on Youtube.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

 Shutting down until after Christmas. Have a wonderful Christmas and safe travels. And may your children and grandchildren not give you the flu.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

My brother's ode to a beloved cat

My brother does not have a computer. He asked me to post this on Facebook in memory of a cat he dearly loved. The poem is so touching, I am posting it here and on Facebook. Losing a beloved pet can tear the heart out of you.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Life, Lucky, Grayden, and All That

 Following the war in Ukraine is depressing. And so are a few other things in my life. So much so I have not looked at anyone's blog posts or even comments on  my own posts for 10 days. For which I apologize.

My head is stuffed with straw but it keeps my ears apart. A few weeks back, Tanya and I came down with something. Cough, flu, or Covid, we don't know. I had my covid shot, Tanya did not. We both had flu shots. She had a dry cough with headaches, I had a dry cough. Both had stuffy noses that cleared up as did the coughs. But we have been tired ever since. We should have checked for Covid but didn't have home tests. One of our friends tested positive, her sister negative. We are gradually over coming tired but I find myself making memory mistakes I should not and it worries me. 

 But I keep putting one foot in front of the other and trundling onwards. Lucky needs to be walked and that gets me out of the house at least 5 days per week. We have a dog park a 25 minute walk north of us, across the main West-East CN line. Five blocks to the railway and another three blocks to the dog park. Crossing the tracks can be a challenge as sometimes a 200+ car freight will pull in and stay 15 minutes to 45 minutes. So we have to walk and extra 4 blocks to a proper crossing to go around it. No problem.

Incidentally, the freight trains have a special car in the middle of them that tests and records track conditions as the train travels, even at top speed. The repair crews know exactly where and what repairs are needed. No excuse for derailments caused by track conditions.

The dog park is small and usually attracts no more than 5 or 6 dogs at the times I go there. Sometimes we are the only ones. I'm on a first name basis with the regular dogs and some of the owners. We play fetch the ball, though lately there have been a couple scraps over ownership. Neptune, a year old border collie tried to take the ball out of Lucky's mouth. He settled her hash in a flash. If our house was big enough for two dogs, I'd take Neptune any day.

Lucky posing for his portrait

Patrolling the perimeter 

Waiting for me to try to pick up the ball

Grayden is 16 months old. Books are his passion and 75% of his waking hours are spent reading or being read to. TV cartoons, not so much. His vocabulary is growing. His mom has a shirt from the UK. What does it say? "London", clear as a bell. Other words are sometimes a bit garbled but he works at it. He has a board with the alphabet on it and is learning words that start with letters M - mom, etc. The other 25% of his time he spends getting into trouble. Everything has to be up out of his reach. He ripped the child proof locks off the cupboard doors because he watched his brother install them. 

Grayden goes to day care five days a week. His mom gets him up in the morning, dresses and feeds him breakfast, and drops him off on her way to work because his dad is long gone to work. His dad picks him up, cooks supper for the family (he is a self taught chef), baths Grayden and puts him to bed. Grayden likes music to go to sleep by. For a while it was Waylon Jennings' Luckenbach Texas, then Peter, Paul and Mary Blowing in the Wind and Donovan Catch the Wind. All the oldies. My kids' Grade 8 teacher was also the music teacher and taught all the songs of the 60s.

I'm 16 months old? Wow!

I love to read

Leaving a trail of mischief behind me

Shampooing my hair with spaghetti sauce

If I were a car, I would jack up the radiator cap and drive a new vehicle underneath. Waiting times for non-emergency procedures are incredibly long because the government is starving the health care system of funds so they can privatize as much of it as possible. I'm waiting for an MRI to see why my balance is so bad. Especially if it is dark, I keep wanting to fall over. I would have been dog meat in Abu Ghraib. Waiting time for an MRI is at least a year. There is enough MRI machines to run 3 to 5 times as many in a day but the government will not pay for staff. I can get one tomorrow for $1000.

Christmas is coming. I am looking forward to that. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Stompin' Tom Connors, Canadian Icon

 Stompin' Tom Connors was born Charles Thomas Connors in New Brunswick in 1936 to a single Protestant mother who was not allowed to marry his Catholic father. The first part of his life was lived in abject poverty and he left home at age 13, bought a guitar at age 14 and hitchhiked around Canada singing for his next meal.

At his last stop in Timmins Ontario, he found himself a nickel short of a 35-cent beer at the city's Maple Leaf Hotel. Tom told the bartender to put the cap back on the bottle and he'd head for the Sally Ann, but the bartender, Gaëtan Lepine, accepted the 30 cents and offered him a second beer if he would open his guitar case and play a few songs. These few songs turned into a 14-month run at the hotel, a weekly spot on CKGB in Timmins, eight 45-RPM recordings, and the end of the beginning for Tom Connors.

Connors was never part of the Canadian musical establishment like Gordon Lightfoot or Leonard Cohen. He wrote and sang of a nation without politics, to its proud history, and to its better angels. His songs remind us that Canada matters—that we've built something amazing here, and must not take it for granted.

 Stompin' Tom smoked about 100 cigarettes per day and consumed an equivalent amount of beer. He died of kidney failure in 2013 and it seemed all Canada turned out for his funeral. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

What goes on inside your head?


What do you see inside your head?

John Green who created this meme was astounded that people could visualize as real pictures to greater or lesser degree. His visualization was based on words only. On the other hand, I am at a level 1 as I visualize in great detail. I can lie in bed at night and see, one closeup frame at a time, the farm where I grew up. The details of fences, gates, trails, water troughs, barns and out buildings, every crack in the cedar posts and every rock or hole in the trails to the pasture, the cows, horses. I can do the same for our home in Mar'yanivka, the trails, the gardens and so forth. I have never tried to visualize a new thing, only things I remember. But if you draw me a picture, I can see it and maybe even build it. 

And what thoughts ramble through our minds? Mine is never quiet, there is always a flow of thoughts expressed as silent words in my mind. Sometimes they bounce around like the balls in a pinball machine. Oh, look a squirrel, as my daughter says. Which is why talk radio or podcasts make me crazy as they are too slow to hold my attention. I prefer the printed page. 

Are some minds totally quiet? I see so many people with headphones on, walking or riding the bus, as though they are afraid to be alone with their thoughts. If I need music away from home, I can sing inside my head, usually in the  style of whoever recorded it, though I enjoy music videos and have a wide selection of music on my computer. 

Temple Grandin thinks in pictures, not words. Where as we will go from abstract to specific, she has to start from specific and work her way to the abstract. One example she uses is a church. She has to start with a specific picture of a specific church and work her way to the generalities of churches. 

I am curious how my readers think or visualize and invite detailed comments so I can learn.

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Florence Centre in Zaporizhzhia Ukraine and the "I Am Beautiful" Program

 A week ago (12th of November) Elephant’s Child, who blogs from Australia wrote about a charity program called “It’s in the Bag”. Participants are asked to fill a good sized hand bag in good condition that they no longer use with essential and luxury items to make a woman who is struggling feel supported and cherished.  Many women shortchange themselves anyway, but when times are tough it seems to be almost a rule.  So I went shopping.  I picked up tampons and pads, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner .  I also purchased moisturiser, hand cream, nail polish, eye makeup, lip gloss, a fun pair of earrings and a few other things.

This reminded me of a program that the Florence Center (see below) ran a few years back called “I am Beautiful”. It focused on self-image and building self-worth/esteem for women who retire from paid employment.  In the former Soviet system, someone was really only worth something if they earned money.  Women over 55 or later 65 would feel they were not worth anything. Many of them lived in poverty as state pensions were not very high.

The 13 week program had three components:

  • 1.    Complete makeover: hair, make up, clothes.
  • 2.    Psychological support.
  • 3.    Social activity of people in old age.

Participants came back out of the experience very excited and positive and often would continue to meet, form club-like groups, and do things together and for others.

Fashion show

Psychological support

The program has morphed into "I Love Life". The project is for women 60+. The main aim of the project is to help people to live with PTSD, Most people have it in Ukraine because of the war. At the same time it is a little bit of fun, exercises, how to deal with stress, depression, how to deal with conflict situations, how to make decisions, etc. There will also be some sessions on how to look nice, as it helps to have adequate self-esteem, etc. We plan to have 10 sessions, 2 groups of women. By the end of the sessions it would be a fashion show plus a concert.

The Florence Centre in Zaporizhzhia came into being in 2004 through the initiative of Otto and Florence Driedger, who spent a career as professors of Social Services and Restorative Justice at the University of Regina, and the initiative of Professors of Social Work of the National University of Zaporizhzhya. This is a non-governmental agency which is significant in Ukrainian society. The Centre is run on a small budget with just a few professional staff, plus many volunteers, many of whom are students from the faculty of Social Work. Many become acquainted with the Centre in their Practicum studies, and stay on to volunteer. It is funded primarily by the Mennonite community in Canada with project funding from other sources as well.

The Kangaroo Program, which started as a small day care program for children with special needs and has become a learning centre for children and their parents who play an active role. One part of the program deals with children from 2 to 7 years, the other is for children over 7 years of age. For the most part, these are children not accepted in the public schools because of their special needs, and children not accepted in society. Mothers are often confined to their homes to provide care in isolation. The children progress and develop social, communication and living skills. Many who have been non-verbal begin to interact with others. The hope is many will eventually be accepted for integration in the public schools. Apartments that house the program are funded by the Mennonite Family Centre.

Other Projects and Programs include:

  • ·         Classes in Conflict Mediation for adults and children
  • ·         Workshops on bullying for high school students
  • ·         Addressing domestic violence issues
  • ·         Caregiver professional development and support
  • ·         Parents’ support club
  • ·         Seniors’ support club
  • ·         Educational resources for clients and personnel
  • ·         I Am Growing Up – Sexuality Education for Grade 4 students
  • ·         Counselling services
  • ·         Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) educational presentations
The war scattered staff and volunteers of the Florence Centre to western Ukraine and neighbouring counties where they continue to provide services to Ukrainian families wherever they are as “Florence Centre International”. The Centre still operates in Zaporizhzhia on a reduced basis, including the Kangaroo Program. Lucy Romanenkova, the indefatigable Director of the Centre, dodging rockets by day and night, manages the Centre’s programs and coordinates international staff and volunteers by Zoom and other Social Media.


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Ekaterina Shelehova, Folk Singer, Pop Singer, Opera Singer, and Rising Star

Ekaterina Shelehova, fluent in Russian, Spanish, Italian, and English and not yet thirty years of age, is one of opera's outstanding new voices and a rising star in the music industry. She has a loyal fan base that follows her on social media. She is also a humanitarian who supports various causes and charities.

Ekaterina was born in Kaliningrad in 1995. She began singing lessons at age three, participated in several competitions and festivals, winning the top prize in the "Russian Hopes" festival when she was six. She also recorded a CD of Russian children's songs, Дождичай.. Her family moved to Canada, and she finished high school in Hamilton Ontario, where she studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. She won first prize in Kiwanis competitions in 2008, 2010, and 2012 and performed operas “Carmen” and “Tosca” presented by Opera Ontario in 2005 and 2007.

In 2014 she moved to Italy and became a student at the Conservatorio di Milano, completing her Bachelors and Masters in Opera with outstanding marks. She performed several roles in Barlassina at the famous Teatro Antonio Belloni: Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Adina in L'Elisir d'Amore, and Musetta in La Bohème.

She won prizes in opera competitions such as Concorso Lirico Salvatore Licitra in 2015, Concorso Internazionale Cleto Tomba in 2016. She won the Young Opera Hope award at the Magda Olivero International Competition in 2016 and The Public Choice Award at the Giuditta Pasta Competition in 2018.

She toured China in 2019, studied improvisation, extended vocal techniques, and folk music in Mexico during Covid in 2020, and her 2021 performance on the show Italia’s Got Talent caused a sensation in the media. Her performance of Earth Melodies was beautiful and meaningful, without structure, libretto, or words of any kind. The video of her IGT performance has been viewed millions of times.

In a departure from opera, she toured Europe in 2022 as the lead vocalist of Era the popular French new age group that combines Gregorian chants with modern elements. She has recorded many singles and albums, pop, folk, opera available on YouTube and streaming services such as Spotify.