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Fall is imminent. With each new season we customarily change a few pieces of decor in the house. I see a basket of apples, pears, squashes, etc. have appeared on the coffee table. It looks nice. Upon closer inspection this morning, I was struck by how realistic the fruits look. It’s amazing how much detail has been captured.  How do they get them to look so perfect? As I stared a bit longer I noticed the ‘imperfections’ incorporated into them – little blemishes and bruises – maybe that’s what makes them look ‘real’. Interesting. Had they been totally ‘perfect’ I’m sure they wouldn’t have impressed me as much. So maybe that applies to people as well – perhaps it’s those little imperfections that have something to do with making us unique and more ‘real’.

Thinking about perfection; the perfect looking people that we see from Hollywood, with their perfect bodies, and always perfectly ‘made-up’ – well, I wonder what effect that has on the majority in our society that can’t ever aspire to replicate such ‘perfection’.  I wonder what it’s like for someone who, as soon as they step outside, is judged every time on how they ‘look’ and what they’re wearing. The media are always ready to pounce on them if they’re having a less than perfect day. There must be a lot of stress involved in looking that good! Not the least of which must be you’re never supposed to look older, but that’s another story.

Another thing I notice: looking around many stores there seems to be a disconnect – lots of very small clothes that I’m sure would probably look good on 1% of the population who are also under 25 years old, but most of the folks walking round the malls don’t look like that, and wouldn’t fit into those clothes, or if they tried, would look ridiculous; unfortunately some do try!

I don’t see anything wrong in trying to be, or trying to look the best we can, of course, and it’s great if it makes us feel good about ourselves, but I’m thinking that perhaps we spend too much time and effort trying to be more than we need to be! What’s wrong with just being who you are, and feeling okay with that? Nobody really has the right to judge us after all.

Who decides what perfection is anyway? And...  Since perfection is an absolute, it cannot change, or create anything; it wouldn’t be perfection if it could. To quote the late poet, Sylvia Plath: “Perfection is terrible, it cannot have children” (The Munich Mannequins). There’s beauty in being real, and ‘real’ for most of us includes a few imperfections!          


 
 
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Just in case someone hasn’t noticed yet, there are actually two contributors to this blog. One is Shirlene who has to contribute far more than her fair share, and the other is me – the Reluctant Blogger. If you were to ask me to write a short story... no problem, but writing for a blog (with just the right tone and mood) makes my brain ache. That having been said, I’ve been encouraged (some might say coerced) to write the post for this week.

If you’ve read the most recent contributions, you’ll be aware that some of us are also running a ‘let’s get rid of a lot of stuff around here’ campaign. Well, I aim to please (Ha! says Shirlene); therefore, I will offer up a poem that I wrote in the mid-sixties.  Marvelous! I’m killing two birds with one stone – I’m writing something for the blog, and I’m getting rid of ‘old stuff’, and you get to read something written by a well-meaning teenager who aspired to be a writer. Sorry about that.


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Wind Song

The trees bow down to the Lord of the Winds,
To the Lord of the Winds they pray,
For they fear death and broken limbs
And the Lord of the Winds can slay.

Who will dance with me?
Who will sing for me?
Who will come and play?

The dust awaits the Lord of the Winds
In lowly halls of grey,

For the Lord of the Winds gives life to the dust
And the dust can fly away.

  Who will dance with me?
   Who will sing for me?
    Who will come and play?

                                                              The River knows the Lord of the Winds

                                                   
For equal souls are they.
                                                           As they embrace, the waters race
                                                        And all is wild and free.

                                                              I will dance with you.
                                                             I will sing for you.
                                                              I will come and play.


  (Megan)


 
 
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Shirlene takes on the Challenge!
 
                Sometimes we have to try
             And risk things going awry
            ‘Cos how do we ever learn
             If we’re scared of being burned

               So I’m out there on a limb
            It could be just a whim
                                           And I wonder where it’s leading –
                                           My goal’s to make it appealing!

                                           So I hope you enjoy my ditty
                                           And find it vaguely witty
                                           I wanted to bring you a smile
                                           Just for a little while!    
                                   Ta da!


This is my first composition for ukulele: ‘Stuff’, based on my recent real-life experience – (with tongue firmly planted in cheek)
P.S. You’ll have to take my word for it that it has a catchy tune! 

Stuff

Oh, there’s too much stuff!
It gets everywhere
It’s more than I can bear
Just too much stuff                         (chorus repeats after each verse)

I try to weed it out
Send it to Sally-Ann
But by the next week
It’s all crept back again

Where’s it coming from?
It can’t all be mine!
Behind those closed doors
It must breed from time to time!

One more war I wage
It’s really not so funny
I’m always doing battle
With armies of dust bunnies!



 
 
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We were just innocent “Babes in the Woods” dedicated to giving the pondering poodle an exciting adventure on a fine summer’s day. However, we soon learned a few things during this experience.  For one, we are not top of the food chain. Mosquitos rule! We are both obviously very tasty morsels, as far as the mozzies are concerned, and our "relaxing” walk in the woods turned into a battle - which we unfortunately lost, and still have the itches a few days later to prove it. If there is anything positive in this, I guess it’s that we’re still attractive to something.  Between us we probably have welts on almost every body part that was exposed that day, and said welts can be located on some of the bits that were not really exposed all that much.

It seems that when one looks at nature, one can usually see that there is a balance - every little creature or insect seems to have some kind of purpose; but, mosquitos? NO! I don’t think so! Of course, the furry little dog had a lovely time, but then she only exposes her nose.

It’s not as if we didn’t take precautions – we actually wore those funny looking bracelets that are supposed to repel the little blighters. Ha! We thought they had worked on a previous walk, so we were confidently tackling another set of woods. Looking back, one might suspect that perhaps on that particular previous trip the mosquitos were just taking a snooze. We should have thought about it a bit more perhaps.

It had been raining (a lot) the week before our latest excursion and the woods were full of stagnant pools, that is, mosquito nurseries – super nurseries. Also, since it’s getting late in the season, the latest crop had a desperate sense of urgency about them – they were super mosquitos on a rampage. They must have detected us as soon as we approached and lain in wait until we got far enough into the woods so that turning back would have been to no avail. Then, they relayed to their hungry little buddies further on in the woods that we were pretty tasty – so other gangs lay in wait. Yup, we were definitely the appetisers, the main course, and the dessert of the day. I must say: it made us walk a little faster than usual. If people could have seen us they might have wondered what new kind of exercise we were taking part in – walking vigorously, muttering, and constantly flailing our arms around our heads. We probably looked like maenads.

We obviously need to devise a better repellent before we venture into those particular woods again – preferably something natural... or perhaps a designer coverall made out of mosquito netting!        


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We are now the proud owners of a new Hyundai Elantra GT-GLS – the one with the really cool panoramic sunroof. It’s dazzling white, and the roof is black. It doesn’t look like your typical seniors’ car, but then, we’re not typical, are we?

It started innocently enough – ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have more cargo space?’ – seemed to dominate the conversation for a while. Well, you don’t suggest things to an Aries Tiger. Unless you want action, you keep your mouth shut. I’ll never learn.

We already owned an Elantra, and were happy with it, except that we both thought that more room for ‘stuff’ would be nice. We’re thinking about taking a cross-Canada trip, and need room for luggage and one toy poodle. Hmm...

First our Tiger (or is it Tigger?) spent hours on the net doing the initial research. Perhaps a cross-over, or maybe a hatchback, would be good? Then we lined up trips to the car dealers. (There are lots of choices around here.) We planned that our final destination would be the dealership where we bought our last car.

Over the next couple of days, we test drove a few cars in a few different places. One of us is a fairly petite individual, so the cross-overs were rejected; she felt like an inexperienced bus driver in them. (She likes to be able to see the road in front of the car - this is a good thing!) Next, we investigated the hatchbacks; there were several good ones that might meet our needs.

A word here about car salesmen – there’s a look that some guys get in their eyes when they see two ‘mature’ (debateable in one case) females approaching them. You can almost hear them thinking – okay, this should be easy; they won’t know anything much. I hate to stereotype here, but, they are often young, male, and keen to make a sale, which is totally understandable, but, it does not impress us, especially if they don’t give us the respect we deserve. It’s hard for them to disguise their real attitude towards us, no matter how ‘smooth’ they think they are. We get the feeling that some guys just don’t want to negotiate with women. Well, too bad...we are women, hear us roar, (and I think the next part is... in numbers too big to ignore)!  We are polite, but there is also a tendency within us to want to chew these guys up and spit them out. The upshot of this – even though the Tiger managed to negotiate some pretty good deals – was that we walked away.

We went back to our ‘old’ dealership, and decided to ask for the salesman we had dealt with three years ago – Mark Molleken. We liked him the first time around, and remembered him as above-board and fair, and he treated us with respect. We were pleased to learn that, in the interim, our favourite sales person had become a manager, but he remembered us, and still took the time to talk to us – it was like meeting an old friend.  He then introduced us to another sales person, Sillin Canegan, whom he felt would give us the level of sales service we were looking for. Good choice! Sillin spent a lot of time listening to us, and didn’t push in any way. She was obviously going to do her best for us.

The test car was a red (‘Oh joy!’ said the Tiger) GT-S hatchback – it looked and felt good, but that’s not what sold the car. The final sale really came down to the level of customer service – that’s what sold it to us. The Tiger and Sillin, and finally, Mark negotiated a deal which was do-able for all concerned. Both Mark and Sillin were so professional.  Even when we had to do the boring old paper work, the youthful and charming Christoph Haddad was a pleasure to deal with. All in all, considering how stressful a major purchase can be, the car adventure was a very satisfactory experience. Bravo Mark, Sillin, and Christoph. Hyundai should be proud to have you representing them.

I know we’ll be happy with the new car.  


 
 
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It’s BIG garbage today, as opposed to small garbage day, which happens every other week around here. One week, they accept everything that they always have and the next, they’ll only take food in paper bags in the green bin and waste paper in the black recycle box.  It’s supposed to save money, and maybe even the planet, but the jury is still out on that one.

Because garbage collection is slated for the very early morning in our neighbourhood, we’re allowed to put it at the curb the night before. This means that every other Tuesday night, you can find an amazing assortment of discarded items – everything from small appliances to small furniture.  This always results in visits from “the pickers”.  They’re always the same ones, and they appear to have certain rules, habits, or protocol (I haven’t decided which).  For example, they never arrive at the same time and they always come by in the same order.  I watch them from time to time, and because we live on a circle, I get a bird’s eye view of their behaviour. There must be a latent anthropologist inside me somewhere, or maybe it’s just the writer – grist for the mill and all that.

First, there’s the burly, surly guy in the black pickup truck.  He always takes all the metal items that he can see and most of the small appliances. He shows no interest in wooden furniture, even good furniture, or anything else for that matter.  To put it mildly, he is not an endearing chap.  He always looks as if he’s spoiling for a fight and he doesn’t always put the things he doesn’t want back in the boxes, but woe betide the foolish homeowner who might want to discuss this.  Perhaps that’s why the other pickers always wait until after he’s made his rounds. Suffice to say, “I will never love him”.

The visit from Mr. Bellicose is followed by that of the man in the shabby old car.  He takes whatever metal Mr. B has considered beneath him, and some of the glass.  This second individual is always fast and furtive. He acts as if someone might come out of a house, or show up in a vehicle, to challenge him.  He should know that we’re all happy to get rid of the stuff on the curb; that’s why it’s out there.  Maybe he’s just shy or embarrassed.  He shouldn’t be; he’s doing us all a service by helping to recycle things.  Then again, he may have had a previous run-in with Mr. B, and not want a repeat performance.

The third picker is a woman on a bicycle with a large box attached to its rear fender.  Because she resembles some of my favourite characters, I have a soft spot for her.  She has unapologetically grey hair, scruffy clothes, and a jaunty air about her. From the way she rides her bike, I would say that she’s probably fairly fit, but you can’t really know anything about a stranger, can you?  She’s the one I wonder about the most; she doesn’t look destitute, mildly eccentric perhaps, but not destitute.  Why does she do it?  Is her bicycle her only means of transportation?  I don’t even know what she takes out of the bins; they’re always small items and she puts them directly into her box.  She’s never taken anything from our bins, so I have no idea what it is that she collects.  Is she a very dedicated recycler, someone with a collecting mania (bottle caps?), or a person in need of what she takes?  She’s the most mysterious and compelling visitor of the three. Since I don’t think that she’d appreciate being questioned, I mull over the various possibilities from time to time.  Who knows? Maybe she’ll end up in a story.  Maybe they all will.


 
 
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I happened to catch part of a TV interview with Dame Judi Dench not so long ago. Well, it felt like not so long ago! She was addressing some of the funnier aspects of aging including the fact that time seems to speed up – hence the quote above. She said it really does sometimes feel as if she’s eating breakfast every 15 minutes. I can relate to that. I thought it was probably only yesterday that we did our Wednesday blog, and here we are again already - except that we’re not quite ‘all ready’ so to speak.

It had been mildly suggested to me that I write something about ‘the tomatoes’.  Hmm..., to be honest, I can’t really imagine writing anything very imaginative about tomatoes.  However, our tomatoes have been receiving rather a lot of attention lately - from Megan specifically, who has been spending what seems like hours relocating them several times a day (the pots are on wheels, which makes them somewhat mobile) to try and catch the most hours of sunlight.  Some days, this has been a thankless task because there hasn’t been any – sunlight, that is.  We have three ‘bushes’, in pots, one of which looks like something from Jack in the Beanstalk. It’s taller than Megan.

To date, we have picked one rather small, greenish, yellowish, pinkish cherry tomato, which we carefully cut in half and gobbled up – even though it wasn’t quite ripe.  I suspect that if you factored in the cost of labour involved etc., that little tomato probably cost about $50! There are lots of little tomatoes on Jack and the Beanstalk, but they are still very, very green! Yes, this is our first attempt at growing tomatoes, so we didn’t really know what to expect. They have been loved, nurtured and admired, and ‘taken’ to the sun, and watered when necessary. Maybe they’ve decided they don’t want to be eaten, so they’re stubbornly clinging to their ‘green-ness’ as protection.

Meanwhile we have purchased a container of very nice tasting grape tomatoes – juicy, red, and sweet, for just a few bucks and no labour! But then, the most satisfying (or fulfilling) things in life aren’t necessarily the things we acquire the most easily are they? 


 
 
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One of my hobbies is playing the ukulele (I may have mentioned it before). As a result, I often roam around the Web looking for new songs to play, to expand my repertoire. On one site I came across the following quote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident – if every citizen spent a little bit of time playing the ukulele, the world would be a nicer place

Cute, I thought. It wasn’t attributed to anyone, so unfortunately, I can’t credit it. It caught my attention, made me smile, and ponder a bit (as I am apt to do). The idea led me to believe that it would, in fact, be a very gentle solution to many of the problems in the world today. Everybody needs a little time, once in a while, to chill out and do things that might make the world a nicer place.  Then I got to thinking, it probably all comes down to just the simple things in life – they really can make a difference.

So, if the question ‘what would make the world a nicer place?’ were to be considered, I wonder what other ideas might work. For example – ‘the world would be a nicer place if:

·       people didn’t drop their litter

·       people smiled at each other, for no obvious reason

What else?  I’d love to have contributions.  If you happen to drop by this blog today, consider yourself smiled at, and have a wonderful day! 


Shirlene

 
 
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This week, I’m suffering from blogger’s block. This might be due to the fact that it’s very hot and humid outside, or it might be due to my experiencing a senior’s moment, a prolonged senior’s moment. Anyway, for whatever reason, this blogger’s block is going to produce an offering of blogger’s babble – an array of spontaneous thoughts about a random subject, which is probably significant only to me. So be forewarned.

Today’s ramble concerns the return of the gremlins. One of our A-Z Challenge blogs (G) described their presence in our basement where all my sewing equipment is kept. Since that time, we (the gremlins and I) have been maintaining an uneasy truce. Well, this morning, I’m feeling rather warlike. I’ve been re-covering a couple of chair pads for our patio chairs, and needed some hook and loop fasteners for the ties – we used to call it Velcro, but since that’s a patented brand name, I should probably try to stay out of trouble. Well, back to the story.

When I opened the plastic drawer that I keep spare fasteners in, there was a big, tangled mess to greet me; and when I say big, I mean BIG! Years ago, someone who had worked on an international exposition of some kind, gave me about thirty feet of hook and loop fasteners – thirty feet of each kind – it’s backed with heavy duty ‘stick to anything’ double faced tape. Apparently, you aren’t allowed to deface ancient European halls with nail or screw holes in order to hang exhibits from your native land. Patriotism does not excuse defacing historic buildings.

The stuff is wonderful, as long as you treat it with respect, part of which involves keeping the hooks away from the loops until you’re ready to use it. Suffice to say that once they are joined, the hooks and loops do not separate easily... and the glue backing... we won’t even discuss the backing. The gremlins had better keep a very low profile for a while. At the moment, I’m gunning for them. Supernatural, imaginary beings, or not, they won’t stand a chance!

On a happier note – while walking back from fitness class (our instructor of the day was a man I secretly call ‘J who tries to kill us’), I saw an enormous, jewel-toned dragonfly dancing in the sunlight, showing off its beauty and skill simply for the joy of it, and because it could – a small gift to lift my spirits.

J, by the way, is a wonderful instructor. He works hard to help us improve our fitness levels and he seems to care about us, but he shows no mercy. Are you listening gremlins? I’m going to take a page out of J’s (instruction) book, and apply it to you. Gremlins beware!


 
 
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Shirlene has decided it’s my turn to write the blog.  Blogs are not my forte – I have been known to bore people with facts and history etc., so I’m not sure how this is going to turn out.

The topic of my blog is badminton, although in my case it’s more like ‘bad’minton.  A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine whose name begins with ‘S’ talked me into buying a racket, and accompanying her to the community centre.  She started going there to play ping pong, a game at which she is good; then, she added badminton to her repertoire – a game she played well a couple of decades ago. I, on the other hand, have never played ping pong, and seldom played badminton, very seldom.

The first time we went was on a Monday. This was because on Mondays, most of the usual players play ping pong. We, therefore, had the court to ourselves, which was good. Also there was no-one to watch me make a fool of myself, which was even better.

How to describe what happened on that first Monday ... Well first, I should explain that under ordinary circumstances, Shirlene is a kind, gentle, civilized sort of person with a very noticeable British accent. Put a bat (either ping pong or badminton) in her hand, however, and she transforms into a female version of Attila the Hun – you know, the ‘conquer or die’ guy from ancient history. Others play badminton; Shirlene wages war. To put it succinctly, my badminton playing was most definitely bad, all bad.

Although I was more than somewhat discouraged by Monday’s horrible trouncing, we returned to the scene of the massacre on the Thursday of the same week. This time, there were several other players, all laughing and thoroughly enjoying themselves. When one of them asked if I wanted to play, I shuffled my feet and explained that I wasn’t very good and that I would probably bore them.

‘No, no’, they all said. They explained that they were all beginners and that they played ‘just for fun’. So I played; and I’ve been playing on Thursdays ever since, and it’s fun. We laugh and joke, and no one seems to care that I play ‘bad’minton.  In fact one of my fellow players informed me that I’ve definitely improved (I couldn’t have gotten any worse) since the first time I played with their group. Maybe my game will evolve into ‘not too bad’-minton.  Maybe one day, I’ll be able to play with Attila the Hun!

P.S. This is Shirlene and I deny all of the above. Well, except the kind and gentle part!

P.P.S. Of course she denies it; she’s an Aries Tiger!   (Love, Megan)