Thursday, 27 August 2015

Thankful Thursday

Briefly (or maybe not so briefly), these are the things I'm thankful for today.

1.  My son C got a job!  It's been nearly 7 months since the store he worked for closed its doors for good.  To his credit, he's a saver so had managed to save a good chunk of money, which combined with living at home with me meant he was able to get through this period rather easily.

But now he has a job, and a good one. Our office mail room was looking for staff so I encouraged him to apply.  He has several years of warehouse experience so I figured it would be beneficial.  It was a long process, he applied in April, was interviewed in June, did some additional testing in July and started this past Monday.  

He's always worked in relatively small workplaces - 30 or 40 staff/management, while we have close to 260 to 300.  He tells there is a lot to remember but I'm positive he can do it.  It's only a term position - as all our mail room staff start out - but I'm certain it will be extended next spring unless he messes it up somehow.

2.  My daughter D seems to be settled.  She's been involved with a young man for several months and they went through a rough patch in the last couple of months but that seems to be in the past.  He's been through some counselling and has come to realize how much he cares for her.  It's a good thing as she cares for him and I'd hate to see her hurt.  

When D is happy, things are easier for me too.  She's always been a needy child and while reduced, that need for mom hasn't completed gone away as she's grown up. (She will be 34 in December).  Perhaps I've enabled that need, but in any event, there's a lot less drama when things are going well in her life.

3. Probably the best news for me is I have a new boss!  We were informed last week of the change in reporting structure.  All of the supervisors our old boss leaned on so heavily have been transferred to a new manager, and he's left with those he generally left.  Just to give you an example, one of the supervisors has four staff, is not involved in any committee work or any other corporate activities.  Meanwhile I have 9 staff, I'm mentoring my counterpart in Saskatoon, I'm on three committees, I'm part of an external hiring process and I'm sure there's more that I can't think of at the moment.  

R attended her first meeting with us yesterday (it's a joint meeting).  The tone of the meeting was so different, it wasn't an information dump but rather discussion and resolution of issues.  By the time we finished she had a to-do list (K never had anything on his was always us).  Two hours later, two of the items she'd committed to were complete.  I'm not used to this kind of immediate's a breath of fresh air.

4.  Just 22 more sleeps until we head for Halifax.  I'm so ready for a break - this hiring process has been lengthy (not unusual) and a lot of work.  It will be so lovely to get away and see another beautiful part of our country  

Have a wonderful Thankful Thursday everyone!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Happy Birthday Dad!

It's hard to believe, but today would be my Dad's 105th birthday. He always said he thought he could live to be 120 or at least 100, but unfortunately his health declined rapidly after his 98th birthday and he passed away three weeks later.  Still, he was able to ride his bicycle well into his 90's, curled his last game at the age of 93, and lived in his own home until he was 96.

Dad was born Frederick Lionel Eber Hodgins near Mortlach, Saskatchewan on August 23, 1910.  He was the second youngest of six children born to Lionel and Henrietta (Etta) Hodgins. Dad was always known as Eber, which was an unusual name.  I remember telling friends it was from the Bible in the book of begats.

This is the earliest photo I have of him. It's a school picture taken I believe when he was about 10 years. old.  His older sister Mae is to his left, while his younger brother Robinson (Bob) is directly in front.  The girl also labelled in the photo is my Aunt Effie who married one of Dad's older brothers, Clayton.  His other brother Wilfred and sister Rita had likely completed school by this time.

He was raised on the family ranch and attended school until he was in Grade 8 when he was 14 years old.  In 1924, Grandpa Hodgins passed away due to a gallbladder attack and Dad was needed at home to help with the farming.  They stayed on the ranch until 1931, leaving only due to the severe drought.  Dad told us that he and his brothers road in a cattle car with their livestock and belongings on the train heading north, while his mother and sister Mae travelled by car.  The train stopped every night; the men would feed and water the livestock, then sleep under the train car to ensure that no one got in to either sleep or steal their belongings.  I don't recall how long Dad said the trip took, but I do know they arrived in Nipawin on August 23, 1931 on Dad's 21st birthday.

I believe this photo was taken shortly after their arrival in Nipawin. There certainly weren't many trees on the Prairie and the house in the background appears to the first home they moved into.

Aunt Mae never married, instead she cared for her mother.  When I was a child, Aunt Mae and Grandma lived in a small house just a half mile from our farm on land my Dad and his brother Bob rented. They were an easy walk or bike ride away and we spent lots of time there.

Dad homesteaded a quarter section of land when he first arrived, but later gave that up when he bought what was to be the home quarter where we grew up.  He also rented the Humphrey quarter (where Aunt Mae and Grandma lived) and another piece of land a few miles away which we called the Clarkson place.  I believe these were the names of the original homesteaders and made it easy to differentiate between the properties.  Later, after Grandma passed away and Mae moved to White Fox, the Humphrey quarter was sold, and Dad bought another quarter, the Rossenberg place.  It was the furthest away and wasn't fully broken.

In the early years, Dad also worked for other farmers in the summer and in the winters he would work in the logging camps.  He told us, he would work for six months at a sawmill and make $100 pus his room and board.  Since he had no vehicle he would walk to where he heard there might be work, often using the rail road track as his path.

I think this photo is from around 2000- 2002.  Dad would have been just around 90, while the pilot Art was in his early 80's.

Dad's interest in aviation came about when he was in his thirties.  At the local fair, a pilot was offering rides in his airplane and Dad jumped at the opportunity.  After that he started private lessons to obtain his licence but never had the opportunity to solo.  He always said marriage got in the way.

It was while he was working at Newfield Seeds in Nipawin that he met our mother, Betty.  The two were married in 1954.  They originally lived in my Granpa and Nan's house until shortly after I was born, then we moved out to the home quarter where the four of us grew up.  Dad was a hands on father, he changed diapers, put us to bed at night and read to us, played hide and seek, taught us to ride bikes, and drove us to a myriad of activities.

Dad loved music and would play a piano whenever he got the chance.  This photo was taken at the local hall, after he had finished his chores, and taken a moment to himself.  I don't think he ever had a lesson.

He also taught himself to read French at the age of 60.  I can't imagine even trying.  He had a French-English dictionary and would borrow books from the local library.  He never learned to speak the language but he recognized the words and he even subscribed to French language agricultural magazines.

In 1990, he and mom retired from the farm and moved to a small house in Nipawin.  Being retired from farming didn't mean he (or mom either) quit working.  They had a huge lot, the back half of which was quickly converted to a garden which produced adequate quantity of potatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, carrots, onions, beets, garlic, and dill to feed not only Mom and Dad but many others.  Mom never liked to see Dad idle, so along with the garden they created several flower beds, planted trees and raspberry bushes.  When the next door neighbour was widowed, Dad took over mowing her lawn as well.

To get away from Mom keep busy when the yard work was under control, Dad also started volunteering at the local Living Museum.  The goal was to retain parts of Nipawin and area's history by obtaining and maintaining historic buildings and artifacts.  There is an old house and church, a train station and engine, an old school, and an old log cabin.  The cabin actually came from our home quarter and was the original home of another homesteader.  It was reincarnated on the museum site, after having been a playhouse for us for many years.

Dad enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, and had a special bond with my daughter  We had lived on the farm quarter in a trailer before we moved to Regina, and Dad and Mom took care of her while I worked.  She told someone once she didn't need a Dad because she had a Grandpa.

This photo was taken on his 97th birthday, with his two youngest grandchildren, K & L. We had borrowed the kitchen space and had a party.  Can you tell he was having fun?

Dad passed away just after dawn on September 15, 2008.  He did so quietly just as he'd lived most of his life, with my brother and I at his side.

He was an ordinary man, who loved and was loved, who gave more than he took, though he could be stubborn and occasionally annoying (especially to Mom).

Dad never made a fortune but always felt he was rich in his family.  His formal education was limited, but his  desire for life-long learning was an inspiration.

I still miss him everyday.  Happy Birthday Dad!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Catching up, random style

Okay, I want to know who sped up the clock?  It's already the middle of August, children will be going back to school in a couple of weeks, the leaves will begin changing color, and summer will fast fade away as a memory.

In the meantime we've had an official heat wave. We've had a full week of temps over 30C and highs near 35C.  For those you who are used to these temperatures (and higher), you have my admiration.  A heat wave is a rare phenomenon for us, especially as it has been accompanied by high humidity.  My a/c unit has been doing its duty and keeping the house reasonably cool at least when the sun room isn't open for the cats.

Menopause hasn't been so kind lately, especially at night.  I don't know how many times I've checked the thermostat to ensure the a/c is working only to realize I'm in the midst of a hot flash or worse yet a night sweat.  For those of you who have not experienced these (or never will), you can be very thankful.  I'm up two or three times a night, either to change my night clothes or TMI...get rid of them altogether.  Let me just say, sleeping in the buff with three cats is a dangerous proposition.  At least a nightgown provides a layer of protection when someone decides to come for a cuddle at 4 a.m.

With the heat I haven't been walking as much as I'd like.  A friend and co-worker is on holidays so I've been walking the three or four blocks to her house to water her containers, then take the long way round to get home, another five or six blocks.  With the heat and humidity the mosquitoes are out in full force too.  I'm generally not bothered by them, apparently I'm not very tasty, but these blood sucking bastards insects will eat anything.  Because I've been covering up as much as possible, most of the bites are on my head or neck.

 My next door neighbour had most of the trees removed from her back yard this week.

On the left is a photo from 2013, the other was taken on Saturday.  It's definitely changed the lighting in my backyard.

I had Friday off work and was thinking I would sleep in.  The cats, however had other ideas, so I was up by 7:30.  Which, when I think about it is 2 hours later than normal, so I guess I did sleep in. Anyway, by 8 a.m. the workmen were revving up their chain saws next door so I decided it was the perfect time to walk.  I didn't take my camera as I figured I wouldn't want to stop if the mosquitoes were out in hordes.  I did take the precaution of spraying my exposed areas with bug spray and all was well.  There were lots of people out walking early, I assume also to avoid the heat.  It was great, there was enough of a breeze to keep me cool and the mosquitoes away.

Our Friday night supper group has tried a couple more restaurants with mixed results. The week before last we went to a place known for its breakfast menu.  We were 10 in number and asked for a quiet spot, so rather than putting several tables together in a mostly empty room we were put at a back table, just off the kitchen and the staff bathrooms. Ambiance, not so much.  The food too was meh.  I had a chicken club sandwich on foccacia bread with a garden salad.....except it was served on a hamburger bun (think WonderBread) with bagged salad greens.  I, for one, won't be going back at least not for dinner.

This past Friday we went to a Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant near downtown. The food was good and plentiful but we were 9 crowded at a table for 6, and it was quickly apparent there was no air conditioning.  I would definitely go back, but with a smaller group and when the weather is cooler.

Last weekend we also go together on Saturday evening (with several others) to celebrate N's new job.  He starts training as a West Jet pilot this week. C had sent out e-mails a week or so prior, inviting us to surprise N that evening, suggesting we wear teal and dark blue clothing, and bring munchies to share.  She had arranged for a local bakery to make a slab cake and decorate it with the West Jet plane and logo.  Since it was a surprise I agreed to pick the cake up that afternoon and bring it with me.

I arrived at the bakeshop and when they brought the cake out to me, I took one look and thought, OMG what a crappy job.

The airplane was obviously copied from a picture and the perspective is totally off.  The lower wing looks like a stick and the icing on the tail was smudged. Worse the airplane overhung the sides so it wasn't iced all around.  It looked like something a child might have done...and certainly not worth the $80 she paid for it.

The clerk asked me if it was okay, and I told her it would have to be because there wasn't time to correct it.  I left the store in a panic, and drove a block away before stopping the car and calling C. I was so frantic, I dialed three time before I got the right number. She wasn't home but I left a message to call as soon as she could.  The lucky girl was off buying her new car (2016 Ford Escape) so I didn't hear back from her for a couple of hours.

I told her the cake looked horrible and sent her this photo by e-mail. She told me later, she thought how bad could it be and then she saw the photo. She immediately called the bakery to let them know she wasn't happy and asked for a refund.  They told her they don't do refunds.  When she called me back she was nearly in tears. This is totally out of character for her; I don't think I've ever seen her rattled.  She asked if I would do a huge favor and take the cake back to the store while she tried to find something else.

I was happy to do it and by the time I got to the store and dropped off the cake, they had agreed to provide cupcakes with the teal and blue colored icing in exchange for the cake.  Nothing like what she had asked for but at least it was something.  They weren't ready when I arrived and it was nearly closing time so I headed to a nearby mall for a walk until I could pick them up.

Despite the catastrophe of the cake, the party itself was fun.  There were nearly 20 people there, including a friend from Winnipeg who flew in from Calgary on his way back from Halifax.  (Confused yet?)  He had another friend pick him up at the airport here, and the two of them circled around to the back yard to come in the back door.  It was great to see J and to catch up on his most recent trip.

Several of us dressed in the West Jet colors, while one of the neighbours showed up in a navy suit and scarf that was reminiscent of the old style outfits that stewardesses (now flight attendants) wore. C had contacted West Jet, and they provided official napkins, styrofoam coffee cups, and stickers.  She'd picked up napkins, plates, and cutlery to decorate the table.  As always at a get together in their home, there was lots of food, airplane talk, and laughter.

On Sunday last week I went out to spend some time at my brother's farm.  He and his family were up north near Meadow Lake, where he was running the Boreal trail .  If I remember correctly that was about 80 kms. over two days.  Yeah, I know he's nuts and I tell that every time I talk to him.  He did tell me today his feet have finally healed up though his legs aren't up to a run just yet.  No freaking kidding.

My time was more pleasant.  R and P were cat-sitting for a couple of weeks while a friend from LaRonge was on vacation.  They left Friday and weren't going to be back until Tuesday so he asked if I'd spend some time with her on Sunday.  She'd been cooped up in one of the children's bedroom for most of the time she was there, since Anna (the dog) and the other cats weren't thrilled to have her there.

I opened to the room and she was thrilled to see me.  After a brief time playing, she was happy to get out of the room and explore a portion of the house. (Anna was up north, and the other kitties were in the porch).  I closed off the door to the kitchen and the one on the second floor leading to the back stairs and just let her go.  In the photo she had jumped into the window in the front stair landing and was trying to decide whether to follow me downstairs or not.  She was quite content to check in with me every so often but I think she just wanted to stretch her legs.  I was there for a couple of hours and then headed home.  R told me her owner picked her up on Monday so I'm happy she's back in familiar surroundings.

The last couple of weeks at work have been insane.  I keep making to-do lists and it seems like every time I cross something off the list, two more items are added.  I won't get into the details as they will sound very mundane but suffice to say, my upcoming vacation can't come soon enough.  Just 34 more sleeps!

On that note, I'm pretty much caught up on the happenings of the last couple of weeks.  I must admit I've been rather lazy this weekend, did some housework on Friday, and a bit of cooking for the week ahead on Saturday, started a new knitting project which has been ripped out once, did some reading and just relaxed.  Today I foresee much of the same.  Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Memories of Nan

Today, August 15, 2015 marks the 109th anniversary of my maternal grandmother's birthday.

I know very little about Nan's story, as I was only thirteen when she died the day before Mother's Day in 1972 from an aneurysm.  What little I do know was gleaned from conversations with my mother, and from the memorial book from her funeral.

Nan, (since she refused to be called grandma), was born Mary Frances Jordan in Viceroy, Saskatchewan to William Francis and Jean Jordan.

She was one of thirteen children born to William and his two wives.  I assume Jean was his first wife, as I expect mom would have noted her birth mother in the memorial book, and I know that Nan was one of the last children born of that union.

I don't know for certain when she and Grandpa were married, but I know they were married and living in Saskatoon in 1928 when my mother was born.  Nan would have been just 22 and he was 26 or 27.  They lived in various places throughout the years; Grandpa worked the oil rigs in Alberta for a time, they ran a store and farm near Smeaton, Saskatchewan, and eventually settled in Nipawin.  They built a house, and for many years rented out various rooms in the home, while Grandpa worked at various places around town.

She and Grandpa had four children: my mother Betty was the eldest, sisters Anna and Enid and brother Robert.  My mother, aunts and uncle were raised and went to school in Nipawin and with the exception of Aunt Anna, they all lived most of their lives in the area.

The photo taken above was taken sometime in 1969 according to the note in the album and is one of the very few I have of her.  Nan and Grandpa were on a trip to the East Coast to visit his brother.  I assume they were on a ferry but I'm not entirely certain.  She would have been about 63 when this was taken.

My Nan was definitely not the grandmotherly type.  I don't recall her ever baking cookies or having tea parties with us, or even playing hide and seek or reading a book to us. When I first started school, I went to her house every day for lunch.  She kept a paddle beside her plate with the threat it would be used if I didn't eat everything on my plate.  I don't remember her ever using it...I was far too frightened at the thought to ever test the theory.

Christmas dinners were never held at their home; my parents hosted most every year with the exception of the one year we went to Edmonton to our aunt and uncle's home.  In fact, except for the brief time I went to their house for lunch I don't recall ever having a dinner with them at their house.

She did, however, teach us to play Canasta.  It's a game I haven't played in years, but I haven't entirely forgotten the rules.  I also have memories of her leaning on her kitchen counter, looking out the window towards the garden, and smoking a cigarette. She had that counter raised so that it was at the perfect height for her.  Beyond that, there are few specific memories. Isn't is funny what memories stay with us, while so many others fade away.

I know she wasn't an affectionate person and I certainly don't recall ever receiving a kiss or a hug from her.  One of my aunts once told me a story of Nan and Grandpa arriving home from a trip.  They were met by my mom and dad, and my uncle and aunt who were living in their house while they were away.  Aunt Ardie told me that Nan shook hands with mom and Uncle Bob, and then hugged my dad and aunt.

Nan passed away on May 13, 1972.  She and Grandpa has been to the pub for a couple of beers and a visit with friends that Saturday afternoon.  When they arrived home, she told Grandpa she wasn't feeling well and wanted to sit on the step a minute.  By the time he'd gone into the house and come back out she was gone.  I recall mom getting the call from Grandpa shortly after we'd signed the Mother's Day card.  Her death was a total shock to all of us.

I wish I had had the chance to get to know her better.  I wonder what her growing up was like, with so many siblings and having lost her own mother at a young age.  What did she dream of doing in her life, how did she meet Grandpa, and what brought them to Nipawin?  Was she happy there?  I wonder, as she often seemed distant, whether she was gazing out the window or simply sitting at the table for a meal.

Happy Birthday Nan.