Friday, December 2, 2011

Putting up the Christmas tree

Last night was that time of the year again …time to put up the Christmas tree.
First order of business, retrieving the tree from the storage room.  Of course the box was buried all the way in the back, under a ton of other stuff.  While trying to get to the boxed tree, we found – among other things – a box.  "Oh here are the Halloween decorations."

Another complication, while trying to get the tree out of the room, was juggling a few cats who wanted to get into the room.  “Move Mickey!”
"No Gabriel, you can’t go in there!”
“Out of the way Charlotte!”  Their ears were apparently on their backsides, but eventually they joined Charlie and Chanel who were keeping an eye on things from a distance.
When the tree was assembled phase one could start … opening all the tree branches.  Don’t ask me how long it took, but it was a prickly, dusty affair accompanied by several sneezes.  Next year, before putting the tree away, I’ll put him on the balcony for a while so the wind can blow him out.

Now for the lights.  The plug was plugged in and … oh oh, while the top section and the bottom section lit up with white LAD lights, the middle section did not.  Fortunately there were some spare lights. 
“You’re gonna have to go through them, one by one, and see where the faulty one is,” I said to Dieter.  He responded with “Say what?”
Fifteen minutes later the middle section of the tree lit up.  I’ll spare you the coversation Dieter had with the lights.
Next up, a red ribbon.  We can’t use tinsel or angel hair for the tree on account of the cats.  They grab it and chew it.  So, to prevent an emergency visit to the vet’s office we had to come up with an alternative.  Last year we used pearls, but that wasn’t quite the success I thought it was going to be.  So, this year we would try a ribbon.  It was rather nice until Charlotte came along, carefully reached out with a white paw and made a “little” adjustment.  “Charlotte, don’t do that.  Just look, don’t touch!”

Finally, the decorations.  The theme … red and gold.  Small balls on top, bigger balls in the middle, even bigger balls on the bottom.  A ball here, a star there, some tear drops, some birds … yep, that looked nice.  “Charlotte, don’t touch!  I said just look.”  “Gabriel!  Where’re you’re going with that ball?  Drop it.  Drop it!  Don’t do that!”
Now for the angel on top.  Where is the angel?  Must be in one of the boxes with other decorations.  Oh I’ll look for the angel tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A burglary

Every now and then we find ourselves with nothing to write about.  There’s nothing on the news, nothing’s happening in sports, our friends are of no inspiration, while our own lives are about as interesting as a slice of white bread.  

And then there are times that something happens that turns our quiet, peaceful little world on its ear.  We are shaken and rattled and forced to rethink our safety.  I certainly did when I noticed no less than four police cars outside the condo building where I live.  It’s not unusual to see one police car, but four of them!

Inside the building I saw three policemen and one woman examining the lobby of the building.  They were dusting walls and door frames for fingerprints, taking pictures here and there, even photographing the security cameras.  What had happened?  Obviously something serious or the situation wouldn’t require four police cars.  It was a bit like a scene of CSI, only with less attractive people.  I didn't dare to ask them what was going on because I could guess the response ... "Just move along ma'am, nothing to see here."

This morning though my curiosity (and concern) got the better of me and I phoned the management office to get the details of what happened yesterday.  Apparently there was a break-in in one of the condos.  No idea where though as no details were given.

A break-in in a house is bad enough, but in a condo … how is such a thing even possible?  There are so many neighbors around and it’s not like the thieves can enter through a window (unless on the ground floor).

Speaking from experience, a break-in is horrible.  We had our house broken into in South Africa.  In addition to robbing the place, the thieves had organized a bit of a party.  They had drank all the liquir, eaten all the cookies, and left one heck of a mess before making off with anything they could carry. 

Other than taking electrical appliances, they took leather jackets, bed linen (not the used stuff, the linen still in plastic), table clothes (the ones I kept for a special occasion) and a number of other items. 

For a while nobody will feel safe in this building, wondering if the thieves will be back and who will be next. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

When is it time to give up

It has been said that everyone has a story in them.  Some have nodded and thought “That’s possible”, while the more intrepid souls reached for pen and paper, or fired up their computer, and started writing. 

After the first paragraph or the first page, some came to the conclusion that telling their life story was more challenging than expected and gave up.  Others diligently wrote page after page until they had created a novella or a whole novel.  It had taken weeks, months or in some cases even years to complete their life’s work.  Now what?

Now that the manuscript is finished they want to share their story with the world.  After all, what good is writing something if nobody gets to read it?

They grew ambitious and contacted a few publishers only to be disappointed by the message “No unsolicited manuscripts accepted”.  Research told them that in order to get a manuscript published a writer needs a literary agent.  This, however, is easier said than done.  Even though there are hundreds of literary agents, getting the attention of one is as difficult as climbing Mount Everest.  It can be done, but only a few succeed.

When the first rejection arrives, the writer is disappointed but not discouraged.  After all, everyone gets rejections, right?  From what he heard even now famous authors had a few rejections in their time.  He remembers the saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.  So he does, again and again and again.

But when he receives rejection after rejection after rejection until he can wallpaper his office with the negative feedback, when does he start thinking of giving up?

Perhaps in that moment he remembers the cartoon of a frog being stuck in the beak of a stork, the frog’s front paws around the stork’s neck and the caption “Never give up!”  It’s funny and in a way encouraging, but how true is it?  Should we never give up, or is there a time that we should put down our pens, switch off our computers, burn the manuscript and think “Enough is enough”.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

“I came, I saw, I gave up”

On a good day I like computers. 

On a bad day I’m not impressed with them.

Right now I hate them.

Right now I long for the days when I used a typewriter.  Whatever I typed was on paper.  I couldn’t get erased, it couldn’t get lost (unless I forgot where I put the document).

With a computer you just never know.  The document is somewhere in the memory, but unless you remember where you saved it … good luck finding it.

Take today for instance.  I spend the better part of the day researching and typing an article.  I saved it, I know I did, because I remember seeing the title of the article at the top of the document, but now it’s nowhere to be found.

I looked in all kinds of folders; I even let the computer do a search … nothing.  The document is gone.  Hours of time and effort wasted.  Is it any wonder that I long for the days when typewriters were used?

Of course I’m not giving up.  The day that a computer gets the better of me is the day that pigs fly.  I’ll do another search, and if need be another and another.  Or, like Julius Caesar said “I came, I saw, I conquered.”   

Then again, the poor man never had to deal with a computer.  If he had, and he had encountered the trouble that thing gives, his famous quote might have been “I came, I saw, I gave up”.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Freedom of speech is a joke

A long time ago we got the right of freedom of speech.  Or so we think.  Just try to speak your mind and see what happens.  Some people are allowed to say anything, they can hurt people, they can make fun of them, they can even humiliate them and they get away with it.  Others are allowed to say nothing.  When they speak their mind, they get slammed.

People say that you are allowed to express yourself as long as it’s in a polite way.  I’m one of them.  I often find myself saying “You have the right to say whatever you want, but do so in a calm way.  Blowing up never a good thing.”
But you know what, that doesn't always work.  

Say, for instance, that someone hurls a rock through your window.  Are you going to calmly go outside and polite say “Excuse me, but you should not have done that.”  No, you’re gonna fly to your front door and scream “What the hell do you think you’re doing!”

Blowing up is human nature.  We can only take so much and when pushed over the line, we strike back.  In that instance we forget our good manners and we forget self-control, we just let fly.

It’s the same with the written word.  If you receive an offensive email or see a message on Facebook that gets you fired up, do you take the time to calm down before replying?  There are times that you can step away from the message, analyze it and reply when cooled down a bit, but most of the time we respond spontaneously.  Call it internal combustion.

I saw a message the other day saying “The only person I can have an intelligent conversation with is myself” – let’s add to that “The only person I can safely criticize is myself”.  Where others are concerned the only thing to do is to shut up. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

"It's only a child"

Thanksgiving is coming up and millions of turkeys will be slaughtered.  If they were raised and killed humanely I’m sort of okay with it, but unfortunately that is not the case.

Only yesterday I read about a man (Donald), who as a child took pleasure in torturing the birds he was about to kill.  I found it both shocking that a child would be allowed to torture and kill an animal, and that the parents would stand by and let it happen. 

Several people with whom I shared this story were as outraged as I was.  Even those raised on a farm were shocked. 
“None of my animals ever suffered,” one woman said.  “I made sure of that.  Whenever I had to kill, it was quick and painless.  The animal never saw it coming and I certainly never allowed my children to be present.”

While I’m not in favour of private slaughter, I can only hope that the killers are good at what they do. 

When I read about what Donald did, it would have given me great pleasure to do to him as he had done to those birds.  I would have loved to inflict the same pain on him as he had done.  Unfortunately, I cannot.  I can only hope that by some strange twist of faith he gets a taste of his own medicine.

At times like these, I wish I had the power of Powder.  Do you remember the movie “Powder” with Johnny Depp?  There was a scene where a hunter had shot a deer and Powder channelled the pain the deer was in, into the hunter.  It was a life changing experience for the hunter.  If only I could do the same to Donald.  Channel the pain he inflicted on the birds into him. 

How people can be so cruel is beyond me.  In Donald’s case it’s bad enough that he was a little monster as a child, but to brag about it as an adult … He should have known, growing older, that what he did as a child was extremely cruel and something to be ashamed of. 

He will claim of course that his intentions were good and he didn’t want to upset anyone.  Really?  Describing in detail how he tortured and killed for fun is not intended to upset?  How big of a moron is he?

Some will say “He was only a child”.  Poor excuse if you ask me and just how much is forgiven by this phrase?  If a child does something wrong, it’s up to the parents to educate him.  Unfortunately, some parents tell their child something in the line of “That was bad Johnny.  You must not do that again.” 
As if that’s going to help.  If I were to see a child commit an act of violence against another child or animal, I would take him by the scruff of his neck and put the fear of God in him.  You can bet he would think twice before putting a foot wrong again.

Perhaps this is why our jails are filled with criminals.  If the parents of those men and women had given them a whack around their ears as a child, instead of excusing the act with “It’s only a child”, perhaps crimes such as robbery, theft, assault, rape and murder could have been prevented.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain ...

Toronto is having a beautiful, rainy day.  What does beautiful mean … well, in my book there are three types of rainy days: drizzle rain, steady rain, and pouring rain.  

I can’t say that I’m very fond of drizzle rain.  It’s like the clouds don’t know what to do, rain or not rain.  I don’t like indecisiveness.  If you’re going to do something, do it and do it well.

Pouring rain I like, but only when I’m inside.  I love it the way water runs down a window pain and how the rain makes little crowns in puddles.  When I’m out and about, getting caught in a downpour is less pleasant. 

That leaves steady rain, which I think is wonderful.  I love those soft water droplets coming down, getting everything wet, washing away the dirt and leaving nature smelling fresh.

I always feel at my best on rainy days.  The greyer the clouds, the darker the day, the better I feel.  Rainy days are for curling up with a book and a slice of pizza; for watching a classic on TV with a bowl of crisps; or starting a writing project in the company of chocolates.  Such a wet day is perfect for thick, hearty soup, with fresh, warm bread?

The only thing I don’t like about rainy days is the effect they have on my hair.  I’m sure you ladies know what I’m talking about … fine, curly hair + moisture = frizz. 

Okay, enough said …