Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Grandma got to Canada

     After my last post telling about my Grandma's story telling ability, I started thinking about how she got to Canada.

    Grandma arrived in Canada about 1902. The real story happens before she got here.

    My ancestors moved to Russia/Ukraine in the late 1700's. Catherine the Great asked Germans to come to farm and show Russians and Ukrainians how to farm more productively. My family were devote Lutherans. They were pacifists. They were promised they could keep practising their Lutheran faith, keep their German language and not be made to join an army.  Over the next 100 years these things eroded away depending on the location. For example, my Grandfather was in Russian army. Land had become scarce and this meant that their children would not have the opportunity to farm and this meant that they had very little opportunity to make a living. Canada was giving land away. They did not have cash so free land looked like a golden opportunity.   All the Germans learned to speak Russian and many learned Ukrainian.

   My Great Grandfather was fearful that they would lose these rights. To him they were absolutely mandatory. They began to think about where to move so that they could maintain their beliefs.Two of the family were sent to Canada to look at the prospects of moving to Canada. They came back with a positive report. Plans were made and by 1900 some of the family had moved. Great Grandpa was the organizer and leader. Great Grandpa had all his adult children and their spouses move to Canada. Many of the in-laws of his children also came with this large family.

    So this is how my Grandma came to Canada. She was not part of the decision making group. Some of her relatives were left behind. She kept in contact with them. My Dad also kept the contact up.

  Now over a hundred years later, probably none of great Grandpa's family speak German. Very few of them follow the Lutheran faith. Many of them have been in the armed forces. Several of Great Grandpa's grandchildren fought in WW II. What would great Grandpa think today? Would he be happy how things turned out? He was a great leader and I think he would agree that he made the best decision by moving to Canada.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Grandma Was a Story Teller

       My Grandma was born in 1874 in Russia/Ukraine. She had no formal education. She learned to read though the church school. So she had a basic reading and writing level. I would think the only thing she ever read was the bible.

      Grandma came to Canada in 1903. 

      We visited Grandma about once a week and a couple of times a year we stayed with her. Several times a year there was a large family do and our cousins were at Grandmas too.

     Sometimes Grandma probably had enough with grandchildren tearing around her small house and she would get us together for a story. I guess she wanted to get control of the situation and calm us down.

     Grandma would take us under the stairs which was dark and small. This was also on top of the trap door that led to the cellar. Did I tell you Grandma was four feet by four feet by four feet? So it was crowded and dark. 

     This was the place Grandma used for telling her stories. She certainly knew how to set the mood for her stories. She was also a master at using her voice to add to the story. She knew when a quiet voice was necessary or rapid speaking ...all techniques were used.

     Grandma's stories were about wolves chasing people in Russia. Telling  a story which is a chase is a standard pattern. Grandma had no problem with the story line being carried along.

    Grandma's stories were always about wolves chasing people so there was always conflict.

    Yes she had characterization too. The wolves were always sneaky,mean , fierce, evil beings.

    Rising action was no problem. Wolves chased and  got closer. The person being chased got lost or fell. Hunters came along to scare the wolves.

    Sometimes there was a grisly conclusion and sometimes the person escaped. Grandma had a good sense of the horror story.

    For a lady who'd never been to school she certainly knew all the elements of a short story. Her stories were always different. There were always surprises.

   These stories were thrilling and we loved them. We always thought it was very funny when our little girl cousins would be scared and leave the stair well. They were always crying. 

    Grandma's stories were really folk lore stories from her past.

    They were certainly impressive stories as I remember them from 70 years ago. I will never forget Grandma's stories. Once in a while my brother and I still talk about Grandma's stories.

    So have you had the fantastic exposures to the oral story teller?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Betty Burned a Thousand Dollar Bill!

     Some commenters can see that my cleaning is to downsize to make it easier if a move should come. I want things to be easier for someone who may have to clean up after me. We hear many sad stories of messes that were left for someone else to clean up. 

    My friend Betty and her brother were appointed to clean up their father's house and estate. Betty and her brother hadn't lived near their Dad but another sister had lived near her Dad and looked after him. Their Dad lived in a very small village without a bank store or other facilities. Their Dad had to go to the next town for his banking and shopping. He didn't have a car so his trips were infrequent. As a result, he was usually far behind in completing his business. He always had numerous checks in the house which weren't cashed. He used cash for all purchases and had cash in many parts of the house. 

    Betty and her brother worked all day finding cash and checks. They had to go through the whole house to find things. They planned to go to the bank in the next town. Before they left they started a fire in the garbage barrel to get rid of things they had discarded.

    When they got back from the bank, the sister who had lived beside her Dad all her life asked, "Did you find the thousand dollar bill?" Betty replied," No! Was there a thousand dollar bill?" Then the awful truth hit her. The thousand dollar bill was in the trash barrel which had been set on fire. Betty raced out to the trash barrel and found that the fire had only smoldered. Going through the scorched and burned material she was able to find a very damaged thousand dollar bill. The thousand dollar bill was accepted by the bank.

    So I'm trying to leave things in a condition that would not be too difficult for somebody to clean up. No, I don't have any thousand dollar bills. I've never had one.

    I'm sure many of you have heard the horror stories of cleaning up an estate.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Evidence Do We Leave?

      In a previous post I dealt with cleaning closets and that some of the things I found were old and not used anymore. I'm still cleaning closets. Well, I don't put in too many hours a day.

    However some of the things you find bring back old memories. Today we were doing the closet with photos and various memorabilia. We got tough today and threw away many things. Who in the world keeps tourist brochures from 20 years ago? Okay, you don't have to answer that.

    What I did find that brought back memories was a letter that I wrote in 1963 to my brother's gr. three class. I had just gone to teach in Inuvik , NWT. My brother's class was doing a unit on Eskimos. They decided to write me and each kid asked a question. I wrote them a very long letter. This letter brought back memories and also showed what I was like in 1963. I think I've changed since then.

   I began to think about the 51 year old letter. How much of my written material is still surviving? How much material  written about me is still on file? I would think that very few bits of written information about us remain.

    Two days later! I've been at it again. I've found more boxes, folders and binders. I might have to change my mind. Today I found old school stuff and was surprised at how much I had. Here's a list: thank you notes, programs, awards, teacher evaluation reports, evaluations I did on teachers and student teachers, letters to my superintendent about me, professional development conferences. I was very surprised at how much I had. For most of the material , I would bring it home to show my wife and it would disappear. I naively thought it had been disposed. 

    Well, this material survived for a while but now it is gone. At this stage in my life I had no use for old information.  

   Then I started to think about the present time with the Internet. Much more material is left today. My blog leaves all kinds of information. I have pictures saved instead of lost in some box. Institutions such as government save much more information on me.

   So in the future  how much information will survive? Will people find more information about us? If there's more information left, researching families should give us much more information.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Snow News

     Here it is April 18, Good Friday, and my major news is snow. We received about 2 to 3 in. of heavy wet snow today and just for emphasis some rain. What makes this a bigger surprise is that it was not forecast. 

Muhgo pine and juniper loaded with snow

    Needless to say road conditions have been treacherous. The QE 2 has been closed south of Calgary because of too many accidents. North of Calgary the going has been very slow on the QE 2.

A yard full of snow

    About half of our winter snow has melted so now we get a little new snow to top things off.

Spruce loaded with snow

    Today our sunrise was at 6:31 and sunset is at 8:39 so we get 14 hours and 8 minutes of sunshine. At one time today the ceiling was 400 ft. The ceiling is the bottom of the cloud layer. The low ceiling made for a very dull day. And also the high was plus 2 C (35 F).

Slushy road

    At this rate it could be a very short summer.

    And with that, a Happy Easter to all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cleaning Closets

      In a very weak moment, in fact , the weakest moment in my life, I agreed to help the Micro Manager with some spring cleaning.

    Yesterday we bumbled into cleaning the main bedroom closets. There are two shelves above the rod where  clothes hang. We found stuff to be very dusty so took it all down shook  it outside, dusted the shelf ceiling and wall. As we cleaned things I looked over the contents of some boxes. I found two boxes containing items from my teaching career. There were certificates, programs, superintendent reports and principal reports. There were programs for all award ceremonies that I ever attended. Along with this, were my teaching certificates. There were those fancy certificates you get when you receive a degree. And oh ya...all of my school report cards! My Mom had saved my report cards and gave them to me. Now all of this stuff has to go except the certificates and report cards. I didn't say it's gone. It's back in the closet and who knows when it will actually be laid to rest.

     The Micro Manager started on  the clothes. All articles of clothing had to be taken out to shake off the dust.

    This morning I was assigned  shift on cleaning the clothes in the closet. Now the Micro Manager buys clothes very carefully, wears them carefully and looks after them meticulously. She also does not get  rid of any clothes. You guessed it. This closet is more than full. Now I got to see a great range of styles. But when the pant suit with the bell bottoms came out, I was impressed! You've got to be old to know what pant suits are! So to say the least, there is a huge number of clothes, many of which should have been disposed of long ago.

    We have lived in the same house since 1970. If you move you part with stuff rather than go to the effort of moving it. At this stage of life the Micro Manager is in panic mode as she knows that the big move may not be that far off. 

   If it was me, I would have little more than a suitcase of possessions. I am completely opposite of the Micro Manager.

    So my weak moment has resulted in some interesting discoveries, some shocking realizations  and some reflections on what we've been doing since 1970.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Good-bye Murray

     Today I attended a celebration of life for Murray and thought of the many things that made the man.

     I first met Murray in '97 when I started senior skating. Murray was a very active skater and influenced others to skate and have fun.

    Murray was lively, feisty and energetic. He was also kind, caring and thoughtful.

    What I really liked about Murray is that he was a great story teller.

     Murray had been a farmer all his life. He was a farmer from his boot toes to the top of his ears. Of course, his stories were farm stories. Since I was brought up on a farm I appreciated Murray's stories. It was easy to set Murray up to tell a story. Mention tractors and Murray had tractors , yellow tractors, red tractors. He had tractor stories! Mention storms and he had stories of snow storms, hail storms, wind storms, dust storms and thunderstorms. Mention crops and there were good, bad and bumper crops. Wells? He had many experiences with wells. Machinery breakdowns? He fixed them all. Cows? There wasn't any experience Murray didn't have with those darn cows.

     So these stories were about a way of life and there was always something you could learn or take away from a story. Murray's stories were descriptive and memorable.

   I mentioned Murray's story telling to his son today, and there was a big chuckle of agreement about his Dad's stories. He told me that his Dad had his first heart attack when he was 48. He said, "I don't think Dad thought he would have a long life so he lived and cherished each day that he had."

   Murray was a great example of how to face challenges and live life to the fullest.

    Murray and his stories will be missed.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Freaking Out When You Think You're Old

    About 1992 we hired a young single male teacher. Tom was well qualified and quickly became a very good teacher.

    Tom was single and as single guys go he could have  good time. 

    Soon Tom was married to his long time girlfriend and of course children appeared. Now Tom is a very affectionate, caring and sentimental guy. Tom's wife is a very lucky woman and his kids have experienced a solid family upbringing. The family traveled and participated in sports.

   I saw Tom and his family from time to time and it was always interesting to see the kids grow. Tom was very proud of his two boys. Oh yes, they learned how to fish! They also became good hockey players.

   Tom is a Face Book friend. The other day he said, "It's happened and I can't believe it. We took Gord to the high school orientation night!"  Tom couldn't believe that his son had grown up so quickly and was ready to enter high school. Yes, Tom was freaking about his age.

    So we have kids and are extremely busy with them and don't notice the time going by. I was surprised when my kids were ready to start school. It seemed like the time they were little went by very quickly. Where time really seemed to race is when they were in Middle school. Once they were through Middle School they seemed to be out on their own much more and away from home. I still wanted to have them at home. 

     All at once a certain milestone is reached and we are keenly aware of time going by rather quickly. Our kids are growing up and we are getting older.

     I'm sure the people who have children mark the passage of time by what happens with their kids.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hiawatha House Goes Dark for Today

     Today I don't have anything ready to write about. I have a few ideas in the back of my head but I'm not ready to work on them. Maybe I'm a little lazy today.

     So today, Hiawatha House will be dark!

     Dark comes from the theatre when there's no show on for the day. The lights for the stage are off so it's dark. Dark also comes from horse racing when there's a day with no races.

    I know that bloggers quite often have dark days. We need breaks. Forcing a post probably results in so so post. Forcing a post puts stress on the writer. 

    I've been following some rooky bloggers and they find it challenging to come up with ideas for posts. I think some of them are too fussy. You have ideas and then you have to build a post on that idea. Tell an interesting story.

    Do you get stressed out when stories dry up? What do you do when the well runs dry?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Limps to Hiawatha House.

      We are experiencing some spring weather. We've had above 0 C (32 F) highs for 7 days. Some of our snow is starting to disappear. However , things have moved very slowly.

      We've had snow since the end of October. When snow melts all the grunge that has been mixed in over the winter shows up. It's not a pretty sight.  Some leaves fell after the snow fell and they are pretty messy. We have bare patches of ground but the grass is still brown.

It's incredible how dirty snow can get

Snow plows make windrows when they take the sow off the road.

Now the camera has picked up some green bit I assure you I don't have green grass.
     Sunrise today was at 6:56 and sunset is 8:20 so we get 13 hours and 24 minutes of sunlight a day. 

     Now if I could only send some snow to Far Side of Fifty I might win here prize for guessing the day her snow disappears!

     So as you can see, spring is slowly coming to Hiawatha House.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Behind in Music

     I seem to be listening to music 20 or thirty years after it comes out and is popular.

     I like music. To be more exact, I like listening to music. I am not a musician. I listen to a wide variety of music. It would be easier to say what I don't listen to. I have only one problem and that is not enough time to listen to all the music I like.

     Now it always seems that I am years behind on the music scene. I've never heard Justin Bieber, the Dixie Chicks or 101 other modern groups. I have heard the Spice girls but they are an old group. I don't listen to rap so that makes many artists I've never heard of. 

    I guess I find some music that I really like and enjoy. So I don't pickup on any new music. 

    It goes like this. when Elvis hit the scene. I was listening to Pat Boone, Perry Como, Country and Western and Folk music. I did pick up on Elvis and all the 50's rockers fairly soon after they hit the big time. The Beatles were out for some time before I began listening to their music. It took me a long time before I listened to Neil Diamond, Bruce Springstien, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dillon and many more. 

   Along the way, I discovered   Blues music. In Blues there is a huge variety of different classes. I also made an acquaintance with jazz. All this time I listened to classical music. For each of these I found that there were always sources that provided interesting information on the music. Radio stations I listen to not only play the music but talk about it. 

   I suppose that I was discovering so much music that I didn't have time to listen to new music that was coming out. 

   However, I have been able to find more than enough music that provides listening pleasure.  

    How about you? Are you years behind in listening to new music? What's your favorite type of music? What has been some of the best groups you've listened to? 

Friday, April 4, 2014

I Have Seen the Future

     I went to the Medical Lab this morning for a test. While I was waiting a man brought in his very elderly mother. He had thoughtfully picked up a wheel chair at the hospital entrance as these institutions are extremely large. Again, he thoughtfully picked out a  place at the end of a row of chairs to park her wheel chair. This waiting room has a combination of chairs and tables which are the same height and color scheme . The little tables are convenient for people to put their stuff on while they're waiting.

    The little old lady was parked beside one of the tables. Her son had to sit on a chair on the other side of the table. The lady decided that she wanted her son to sit beside her. The son told her that he couldn't sit beside her as there was a table between them. She completely ignored this information. She wouldn't give up and kept bickering. She got up and before the son could react , parked herself on the table. Once she was sitting on the table he couldn't persuade her that it wasn't a chair but a table and she wasn't supposed to sit on the table. He also had some concern for her safety. Finally, he persuaded his mother to get back in the wheel chair and he sat on the table. Now the son was extremely large so he had to be very careful or the table would collapse. 

    By this time everybody in the waiting room was aware of the situation and couldn't help but be amused. The son was someone who dealt with his mother's behavior in a very unruffled  manner. He was very aware of the audience he had. He knew the value of not treating the irrational with the rational. His mother must have been an English teacher as she constantly corrected his grammar. She was still right on with her grammar.

   So I thought for a second...this could be me some day! So you see I saw the future.

    On another level I had to admire the way the son handled the situation. He was in some control of a chaotic situation. This lady was obviously a very bright person and she still had some of her mind but other parts of it were completely missing.

   It reminded me of the last visit I had with my Dad. I went to his nursing home and found him sound asleep  at the breakfast table. He wakened when I talked to him. He was an old farmer. He said that he wanted to stop and have dinner but he couldn't find the barn to put his horses in. I tried to distract him so that he would be in the present moment so I could visit with him. I told him I knew where the barn was and I would put the horses away. Don't worry. This didn't work. I took him on a tour of the nursing home. He still fretted about his horses. 

    Finally I gave up. I stayed until lunch time. 

    I've thought many times about how to deal with the irrational. What would I do today? I would ask him the names of his horses. I would ask him which field he was working in. I would ask him if he was sowing a crop or cultivating the soil? I don't know if this would work, but I would have been on his topic. The little old lady and Dad would not let go of their ideas. It's difficult to understand their persistence in holding on to an idea. Irrationality is hard to deal with.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Weird Medical Arrangements

     I like the little walk in medical clinic that I go to. I can request the doctor  I want to see. Sometimes the wait is long but they give you a time and you can go away and do something else. I've found a really good young doc who's with it and shows an interest in patients in general.

    Now it's time for my annual medical check up. The system they have for making an appointment is just plain wacky. Appointments are made on the first of the month for the next month. Bookings can be made by phone or walk in. There aren't very many spaces for yearly medical check ups.

   Now the door to this clinic opens at 8:30 AM. They open their phone lines at 9:00 AM. So if you phone you might find that all the appointment spaces have been taken. So people line up outside the clinic to be able to book their appointments at 8:30 AM.

   So there I was this morning at 8:00 AM waiting half an hour to get in the clinic. I was second in line. It was minus 15 C(plus 3 F). By 8:30 AM there were about 30 people waiting. There was lots of good chatter.

    So once the doors were open it took 30 seconds to book my appointment and I was back out on the street in two minutes.

   Before I left, my wife was criticizing the procedure I had to go through to get an appointment. 
She said, "Just think how difficult this must be for old people!" Well, whether she knows it or not, this old person waited in the cold and did very well thank you very much. On the other hand I'm happy not to be classified as an old person.

    So tell me now, does anybody else have to jump through weird hoops to get an appointment for a yearly check up?