Canadian holidays

Today marked Canada Day, the offspring of the old Dominion Days, here in the other part of America.

No, it’s not like the Fourth of July. Canadians acquired their independence quiet peacefully and not under the pretense of seeking democracy when they really are just peeved about paying taxes.

We attended the parade in Fort Saskatchewan. It started a half hour late and inexplicably broke down and stalled about midway for nearly ten minutes.

Favorite float?

The Paranormal Explorers from Edmonton.

Why yes, that is a hearse with a ghoulie crawling towards the crowd with gaping jaw and menacing intent. But it got even better.

Nothing says “happy observance of your independent nation status” like a zombie baby from Salem’s Lot.

Today’s parade was sponsored by so many businesses that briefly longed with the farm implement laden small town parades of an Iowa 4th of July.

In case you need a bit of ghost busting though,

Edmonton is a hotbed of psychic activity, but they will travel – for expenses.

Final photo for the day,

Parade viewing is exhausting, so if you can  – make up your truck bed and snuggle in with a beverage.

Happy Canada Day!

Appropriately there is snow but the Canadian Christmas shopping season does not begin until the first weekend of December and their shopping orgy is actually the day after Christmas – Boxing Day.  Therefore, Thanksgiving is about food, family and whatever winter sport floats one’s boat.

Fare’s birthday fell on the holiday this year. She was born on the day too, 27 years ago.  Rob celebrated by eating lukewarm turkey at Shelley’s sister’s home while wife and baby did what new mothers and their less than patient newborns do in those first hours – wonder what the hell they have gotten themselves into.

Because the older girls are at the mercy of their jobs, we celebrated birthday and Thanksgiving Sunday evening. I spent most of the day Saturday and nearly all of Sunday in food preparation. Saturday was peeling, shredding and baking four mutant zucchini into bread. Fourteen loaves of it. Excuse me now while I pause to bask in my own awesomeness. (Pause) Truthfully, bread baking is far less time consuming than it sounds because a lot of the time is spent waiting for loaves to bake. Sunday I made the rolls, pumpkin pies and cooked the spaghetti squash in advance due to the fact that the turkey breast was going to tie up the oven for most of the afternoon.

Thanksgiving Menu

turkey breast and dressing

mashed taters and gravy

flakey rolls

zucchini and pumpkin bread

green beans

spaghetti squash

pumpkin pie

angel food cake and strawberries

I know. The essence of my awesomeness is blinding even in cyberspace. For someone late in life to the whole housewifey thing, I have adapted and conquered nicely.

In addition to whipping up a fab family meal, Rob and I also planned a vacation. A real one. One with just the merest hint of family as we will stop over at Rob’s mom’s place in the Okanagan on the way back

“Are you sure?” I asked. “This is supposed to be a vacation with no obligations to anyone.”

“Family is always an obligation,” he said. “You don’t want to stop, do you?

He had me there. I love my mother-in-law, but she stayed with us two weekends in a row in September and always has a job list for Rob whether we visit her or she stops here.

“We barely get there and she has chores for you. I end up cooking dinner, and there is the small matter of sometimes she is so happy to see us, she tipples a bit much.”

The drinking thing, I confess, is entirely a personal issue. I am uneasy around drinkers. A glass of wine with dinner now and again, I get. The need to drink daily or past the point of seeing straight? I am baffled and put off a bit. Some of this goes back to my dad and some of it is residual from the early days of Will’s illness when he leaned on alcohol as a way to cope with the symptoms the doctors dismissed. My personal preference is to never be in close quarters with the inebriated. That’s just me.

But we are heading to Victoria in November over Dee’s fall break week. The trip includes a stop in Jasper, one of my favorite mountain towns, a ferry ride from Vancouver to the island, days in a row of vacationing with the possibility of meeting Sally and her family, and the tantalizing lure of warmer than where we live.

A most happy day of thanks.

Dee believes that the celebration of Canadian confederation is called O Canada Day because she spent the last school year being indoctrinated into nationalism here with the singing of the national anthem every Monday morning. I suppose this is better than the nationalism she would have been brainwashed with back in the States with its emphasis on consumerism and multi-cultural disdain and media cult worship.

I have always been struck with the Canadian way of building up to a national holiday and the fervor of the day itself. I never saw anything like it in the States. We did not run around on the Fourth wishing one and other a “Happy Independence Day” the way Canadians great each other with “Happy Canada Day!” It’s almost like Christmas.

Of course, Canadians have real stat holidays that are more than vacations for the Post Office and bankers which undoubtedly plays into their enthusiasm, and it is the first holiday of the summer because summer here has really only just begun.

Today we are off to the parade in town and a festival on the town square, such as it is. Mom and Auntie are here and looking forward to their first Canada Day and first Fourth of July outside the U.S. We don’t commemorate the Fourth up here by the way. I know I say this a lot but Canadians really have little interest in the U.S. beyond television and movies. Really. Oh, and did you hear that soon culture will be the major export of the U.S.A? Also, really really. Rob heard it on Fox Radio, and they know.

Mom can’t get her mind around the reason for Canada Day.

“It’s like our Fourth of July, right?” she asked Rob.

“Um, no, we didn’t have to revolt for our independence,” he said. Hence the lack of pseudo explosions and the like. I do not miss the snap, crackly and pop of the Fourth. Every year I was certain one of my dim-witted neighbors was going to burn my house down with the illegal bounty they’d smuggled up from Missouri.*

Happy Canada Day to all and to all a good day.


*There are people in Missouri whose livelihoods are made in the weeks leading up to the Fourth as Iowans pour over the border in search of fireworks to blind themselves with while losing critical digits in the process.

Our Thanksgiving is not the kick-off to the Christmas shopping season. In fact, stores up here do not adopt the longer shopping hours associated with the season of over-giving until December despite the fact that Christmas decor and related items are already beginning to pop up here and there.

A quick google of the holiday revealed something similar to the history of Thanksgiving in the United States. A stop and start acknowledgment over the course of a couple of centuries, that here in Canada finally found a home of the second Monday of October. A sensible choice really as it means to mark the end of harvest and promote family time, which most folk seem to take quite seriously.

We will have a quiet immediate family supper tonight. The only other family member we could have invited is Rob’s mother, but the drive from the Okanagan is long and expensive and we don’t have the budget for flying her up here right now as we don’t know if I will have to head for the States to help out with Dad.

To quickly update on my dad, he had a doctor appointment today. The fluid around his lungs is building and he is very tired and short of breath most of the time with things becoming more critical when he exerts himself. Exertion has come to be any time he must get up and walk, even if it is just a few steps.

He still went to mass yesterday. He tries to save his energy for that one outing a week. Despite everything, Dad is a very spiritual man and takes his religion quite seriously though he has modified his alignment with some of the teachings that don’t line up with what he has observed in real life*.

Rob woke me in the wee hours with reports of our ghosties renewing activities again. I didn’t see what he did or remember echoing the ghost in my sleep by calling out his name, but I have felt the “presence” in the last few days, so I am not surprised. We had similar issues late last November and leading up to the death of Shelley’s mother. I am sure that this new round of bumps in the night are connected to my dad.

He reported pain for the first time today. His ribs, which are probably cancerous now, hurt. The fact that he mentioned pain is not a good sign. He has a freakishly high tolerance for pain of the excruciating kind. Pain that would turn the rest of us into wimpering babies. When he suffered from crushed vertebrae (three time in the last two years) he made do with regular Tylenol and a heating pad and rarely reported the pain above a 3 or 4 on the scale. If he is in pain enough to bring it up on his own – as opposed to it being dragged our of him as was typical of the past – it must be intolerable.

He has another doctor appointment next Wednesday to discuss putting in a chest tube to drain the fluid. I can’t be sure but I think the doctors are staggering his appointments and their interventions in the hopes that the cancer will “get him” before anything too invasive has to be done. A chest tube is painful and limits mobility my home health care nurse BFF tells me. I hope he doesn’t have to go there.

My guess, though, is that dad will not make November.

We had talked of visiting over BabyD’s fall break but that is still a month away and if he is still alive, the atmosphere will likely be decidedly death-ish. I am not willing to expose BabyD or Rob to that. And since Dad is still telling me that I don’t need to come (and I really should for mom’s sake – she is suffering terribly and I know too well how awful the whole “widow in waiting” period is), I think he doesn’t want to expose me to what is happening either.**

On a bit happier note, my first pieces at 50 Somethings Mom blog are slated to go up on the 14 and 17th, please try to get over there for a peek and a comment. This is kind of a big time blogging thing for me as I had to sign a writer’s agreement and have a chance to have my pieces picked up for syndication.

Finally, the Hey Sarah Palin video I posted has been driving my views the past couple of days, so I wanted to direct you all to a post over at The Zoo. It’s a clip from a recent Biden rally with an intro from Sen. Clinton. She reminded me again of what women should really aspire for when pursuing a political career. Her fervent belief in the cause and her willingness to campaign for Obama are also are in striking contrast to the Republicans. Where is Huckabee these days? Or that Mormon dude? Apparently the right’s sense of team and supporting held values extends only so far and their pseudo-Klan rallies that pass as campaigning these days says much about their message and what they value.

*For example he views the teaching on IVF as silly in light of his granddaughter’s humble beginnings in a petri-dish. It’s clear to him she is not the anti-Christ and that her existence was clearly meant to be. But, this came to him slowly. He was a giant pain in my ass during my IVF cycle and pregnancy.

**I only play a tough girl on my blog. In reality I am still waiting for the thick skin to grow back.

As some of you may remember, we took off for the May Long Weekend (aka Victoria Day Weekend) for British Columbia. Part of the holiday was spent at Rob’s mom’s place in Penticton, a curiously warm place that would blow away most American’s (not the intelligent or the well-traveled mind you, just everyone else) image of the Great White North as a semi-solid frozen version of northern Minnesota. 

We began the adventure in Jasper. We stayed overnight and ate breakfast Friday morning at the Soft Rock Cafe, which is the same place we ate breakfast on the day of our wedding almost a year ago. I enjoyed revisiting that place and those memories.

Friday was mainly spent on the road. Western Canada is vast. Holidaying by road involves hours and hours of driving. Getting to B.C. means traveling over the Canadian Rockies. I have been on two of the routes now. Over the Transcanada from Calgary and the Coquihalla from Kamloops. I prefer the latter. It is twined and a smoother ride but though it appears to be a safer drive too – mountain travel can be dangerous no matter the time of year. On our way back, we saw the remains of a mudslide that took the Transcanada out of commission for much of the weekend. By the time we hit the area, it was clear and traffic was flowing both ways but Rob didn’t want to tarry (not that you are allowed – mudslides are not photo ops people) because confidence was low that the highway would remain clear for long between the heavy snow melt and the rain.

Riding through the mountains is slowly becoming less of a bum-clenching experience. Canadians don’t do shoulders on their roads as a rule and the mountain highways are no exception though the Coquihalla is a bit better. Between the tight curves and the knee-high concrete jersey barriers to keep cars from tumbling off the road should they hit ice or simply take the corners too fast, it takes a while to get over the feeling that falling is imminent. Couple that with the, um, exuberant, driving of a substantial number of drivers and it would be easy to succumb to hysterical passenger seat driving. As it is, I merely adopt my zen face and phantom brake when the need arises.

Penticton is a retirement/summer tourist town sandwiched mainly between Skaha Lake and Lake Okanagan. The latter is the home of the legendary Ogopogo, a Loch Ness monster relative that I haven’t seen on either of my trips. My mother-in-law is a very sweet and wonderful person who talks more than my five year old and laments her lack of cycling opportunities and buddies. Motorcycling that is. On a Harley. She lives in a over 55 only block of two bedroom condos that is just a few blocks from the downtown. It’s really very nice. A person could walk everywhere and given the lack of anything that approaches a real winter, I could see myself living there easily. Which is what my MIL feverently hopes with every visit we make. She spends a lot of time talking Rob’s ear off about the “wonders” of Penticton.

It’s not paradise though. I did mention it was a tourist mecca in the summer? They swarm and menace like hornets. The town fills to the overflow parking lots and everything that is truly garish, lemming-like and benignly evil flourishes. We could only live there if we lived outside the boundaries and had a Costco membership, so we could supply ourselves to outlast the tourists and not have to venture away from our cozy acerage until school starts up again in September.

There were very few tourists this weekend. May Long Weekend is still a bit early for the hardcore flip-flip and swimsuit as daily wear crowd. But the casino was hopping (yes, casino – what is up with the need to build one of those on every body of water in North America?), and the homeless were everywhere.

On my first visit to Penticton I learned that warmer Canadian climates had large populations of homeless. Penticton is part of the norm in that respect. They are everywhere and honestly, I don’t feel all that safe walking alone through the downtown early morning or evening. Perhaps I should be more charitable but most homeless are so because of mental health issues or addictions and nice as they may be, these are not little things and people have to realize that care must be taken.

Between the casino, the few clubs and the homeless, the downtown smells like urine. More so now that it is warming up. All the more reason to take off one’s footwear when entering homes. The soles of our shoes are veritable toilets. 

Katy’s first beach visit was to Skaha Lake this weekend. She throughly enjoyed it. Ventured farther out into the water than I was comfortable and chafed herself good burying herself (with Rob’s help) in the sand.

“I am not going to bury myself again, Mama.”

Rob spent much of the visit hanging things and installing things and fixing computer issues. Number one son stuff and I have promised him that the most taxing thing he has to do when we visit my parents in June is hang out with my dad (and maybe help him sort through his menagerie of tools that have taken over the front of the garage since he fell ill almost three years ago now.

After Penticton, we headed up to Three Valley Gap near Revelstoke. It’s a family type resort of the non-stressing variety. There is a ghost town on site that boasts the largest roundhouse in North America with an accompanying assortment of decomissioned train cars including the infamous “finger car”. There is also quite the cool collection of mint condition cars dating from about 1903 to 1929. Fords mostly.

Nearby there is a place called the Enchanted Forest which was the brainchild of a woman who liked to create fanciful creatures and nursery rhytm characters out of concrete and place them in the wooded area around her home. Her husband bought the acreage area where they are set today and they created this fantasy land for children to wander about in, complete with tiny houses that my daughter delighted in to no end. There is a tree house that probably reaches a good three stories up and scenes from nearly every Mother Goose story I know. The only thing about the place that both Rob and I found odd was how surreal and creepy some of the creatures looked. Do you remember H.R. Puff n Stuff? Like that.

Aside from a bit of rain and mudslide alerts, the last leg of the holiday was good. However we all have sore bums and are glad to be home. (Oh yeah, and I smell like ass so I need to post this and hit the shower now with my apologies for not having all my links in yet. I will get them in the morning.) 

This last weekend was a holiday weekend here in Alberta as Monday was Family Day. Yes, they actually have a holiday devoted to spending time with one’s family. Last year Rob was in Grande Prairie with Farron and Jordan visiting with his in-law’s. Without Internet or reliable cell service, we spent most of that weekend out of contact for the first time since we’d started communicating with each other before Christmas of ’06. It was a very long weekend as I remember it. He did manage to sneak out to the truck and call me a couple times from the on-star phone, but it was nowhere near the marathon phone sessions we’d become accustomed to by then. It seems such a long time ago now.

This Family Day activities we attended were at the Dow Centennial Centre, which houses, among other things, the gym I workout at most days. The community sponsored events included stage demonstrations on the soccer field by local groups like the judo and gymnastics clubs. There were also booths set up around the edge of the field for churches and different volunteer organizations. Rob and I generally walked by the church stuff without making eye contact as neither of us is inclined to practice religion in an organized manner. Indeed, Rob isn’t inclined to practice it in the disorganized manner that I have chosen. In addition to these attractions there was also face painting , yoga, belly dancing, storytelling and of course there was someone making balloon animals. In the art gallery attached to the Shell Theatre lobby was a traveling exhibit from the Alberta Art Gallery and the Waiward Steel Pottery Studio held demonstrations and a sale in hopes of attracting people to sign up for classes. There was also free public skate and shinny skate and no Dow Center do would be complete without those inflatables that Katy so loves to jump around in and slide on.

Afterwards we stopped to pick up tomatoes for supper and hit the Staples for a copy of the tax program because it is really time to figure out what kind of cluster-fuck we’ve gotten ourselves into by shunning our own and marrying across an international border. Rob suggested that I run into the Safeway and he would hit Staples and thus save time.

“But I wanted to go to Staples too.”


“…..because….I like to go to Staples….”

(Laughing) “I forgot what a Staples addict you are.”

“I’m not. I just love office supplies.”

“You are so weird.” (Big grin)


It’s true though. I am weird. I love pens, pencils, notebooks, folders. If it is paper or has something to do with paper – I love it. I have no sense of organization at all, but I love wandering office supply stores.After we had late lunch and tea, I spent some time out in the yard building a snow fort with Katy and Rob worked on finishing up the north side of the basement. When we moved in, a person couldn’t even access the basement for the stuff piled high, but soon it will be Katy’s play area and an exercise area for Rob and I. Progress.

I love long weekends.