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maternalhealth08

Beautiful, isn’t she?  I don’t know her name or anything about her except that she is a woman from an African country called Sierra Leone.  She isn’t very much like me.  Her skin colour is dark and she wears a tied kerchief on her head.

She’s just like me.  She laughs, she cries, she dreams.  She loves her children and does her best to care for them.

The average life expectancy for a woman in Sierra Leone is 42 and 25% of the country’s children die before they reach the age of 5.  I am thinking about this because I saw beautiful faces like the woman’s above flash across a movie screen this morning.  I heard horrible statistics and saw a precious little boy laying listlessly in a hospital bed dying of malaria.  His mother was at his side at times in the presentation.  Her back was to the camera and I’m glad it was.  I’m sure there were tears in her eyes as she kept vigil at her child’s bedside feeling helpless to do anything about the disease ravaging his young body.  Yes, this woman is like me.  I too have sat and watched someone die slowly but surely of a disease that I couldn’t control.  I too wished there was something I could do and I too felt that the life before me was cut down far too soon.  How I wished that someone would have come and offered me hope at that moment.  A cure.  Something preventative.  Something.  It didn’t happen for me.

There is something this woman could have done to have kept her precious child from developing the malady that took his life.  She could have had him sleep under a mosquito net.  It would have protected him from malaria.  I’m not sure she knew that and I’m quite sure that even if she did she couldn’t afford the simple item that could have helped her.  She is not like me.  She is desperately poor.  I can shop and decorate Christmas trees and eat more than I need to.  She has to work hard every day just to survive.

Mosquito nets only cost $7.  I spent more than that on stamps this week.  I cannot bring my loved one back.  I cannot bring back the boy who died in Sierra Leone of malaria.  I can buy nets and have them brought to that impoverished country through The Red Cross.  I can give to someone else, someone just like me, what I wanted most all those years ago – hope for survival.  I can let her know that though there is no way that she can pay for a mosquito net, she doesn’t have to.  It’s not hard for me to pay and I want to do it for her.  Her life will likely be short.  I can give her a little happiness, a little peace of mind this Christmas.  Maybe it will be the only gift she receives this year.  And it will only cost me $7.  I can’t sell all that I own and supply every woman nets for all the children in that country.  But I can do it for a few.  And I can invite others to do the same.

So, dear reader, what do you think?  Can you help her too?  If you can, log onto www.connexuscommunity.com/malaria

and click the link that says “Join this Team”.  This will take you to a Red Cross site where you can donate to this worthy cause.

For more information on this campaign check out www.malariabites.ca

DA headed off to work this morning and P got deposited at a birthday party.  That left D and I to hang out together and do some bargain hunting.  We both wanted to go to Liquidation World as we had heard that they were having sales on the hour, every hour.  D had his eye on a poker set and I went open minded hoping to find some amazing treasure or other.  We went our separate ways and then met up to see what we had found.  D was all excited because he found an even better poker set than the one he had spotted before and because the stickers had been ripped off the case, a sales person said it was only $5.  He scooped it up and whispered to me that the same set at Wal-Mart was $30.  He didn’t care that the packaging was imperfect.  The contents were all there and he was thrilled with his deal.  Me?  I had found the perfect napkins for my gold Christmas dinner and they had a black slash through the original price meaning they were 30% reduced.  When I showed D my find he looked at me as only a twelve year old boy can and stated matter of factly, “Mom, I think you’re the only person who can get excited about napkins.”  Perhaps.

I didn’t quite get to my napkins for dinner but while my chicken enchiladas were cooking, I couldn’t help throwing together a quick tablescape.  When I rang the dinner bell, this is what met the boys:

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They gave me that look and said, “We’re having clementines for supper?”  I explained to them that I had bought new clementines and wanted to have the old ones eaten so I decided to put dessert out first.  They then looked at me and said, “So why are the clementines on those funny spoons?”  To which I replied, “Because they look nice on these spoons.”  Their faces told me that they thought I was nuts.  That was confirmed when the words spilled out of their mouths moments later.

Since I had a little time before DA came home for dinner, I thought that I would add a cleverly folded napkin to his setting.  I didn’t use one of my new napkins.  I practiced on an old one and came up with this:

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If you saw this

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or this

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what would it say to you?  That someone loves you?  Or wow, this mama is nuts?  Why can’t mamas and the guys they love spreken the same langue, eh?

O.K.  If you were to go to Home Depot or someplace like that I’m sure you couldn’t find a fixture with the word “boob light” on it.  That’s my name for one of these:

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We have one of these standard builder lights in our master bedroom.  It works but it isn’t the sort of romantic light that wows me while laying in bed.  Many moons ago, I found a light fixture that I like much better.  It was a bargain at $10 and it only needed its overall colour changed.  It started out a blue-green.  You can sort of see the original colour on the chain in this picture:

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Of course, I painted it black with that lovely Aura “black black” paint that seems to stretch from project to project.

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I have a little more touching up to do on it and then I will have to wait until my dad (or someone handier than DA and I) can come over and install it.  Sorry boob, black beauty will soon be giving you the boot.

DA and I want to change the kitchen a bit.  Actually, it’s me that wants to change the kitchen more than DA.  He admits that we need a new sink and faucet and he’d like to get an island to fill the gaping hole that is most of our kitchen to give us less open space and more workable surface.  I want to do all that and change the colour scheme.  Our original kitchen was navy blue and white.  I am not a blue person.  I really, really want the blue counter tops to go.  Fortunately, they’re scratched up and the laminate ones we both like aren’t too expensive.  There was just the small detail of the navy grout in the white tiled backsplash to contend with.

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DA and I make no claims to being handy.  We don’t mind the white tiles really.  They match our white appliances and white trim.  It was just that navy blue grout that was the problem for me.  We didn’t want to have to take this tile off the wall and try putting up something else so my darling hubbie suggested I try painting the grout white.  Why not?  I paint a lot of other things.

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I used Bullseye primer since I had some of it left from another project and it’s supposed to stick to any surface.  This isn’t an area of our home that takes a lot of abuse so I didn’t think I needed to invest in anything out of the ordinary.  After multiple coats and some scraping and cleaning, I now have gleaming white grout.

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I have no idea if this was a great idea or not but I do know that I’m feeling less blue about seeing less blue.

I tried this idea to cover my tree’s bald top:

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I found four giant white bows at Zeller’s marked down to 87 cents each.  I saw potential in them and accordingly nabbed them.  For the tree topper I twist tied three of them together and just sat them on top like a hat.

I think it looks like a giant bow.  D took one look at it and said, “Why’d you put a bunch of material on top of the tree?  You’re supposed to put an angel or a star up there.”  P didn’t really notice and didn’t seem to care too much.  DA hasn’t seen it yet as far as I know; he’s still sleeping from working the evening shift.  I thought it kind of looked modern and I liked the fact that I didn’t have to purchase anything extra.  I can easily take this apart and use the bows for other purposes if I want to.

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D also mentioned that trees are supposed to have skirts under them.  Guess he did actually notice a few things while doing all that window shopping as a toddler!  I find tree skirts pretty but also kind of expensive.  I thought that I could repurpose an old tablecloth from my former dining room table to do double duty.

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Works for me.  There will be a few gifts going down there anyways so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

It is snowing out again today.  Since the white stuff is seeming more like a permanent fixture and less like a seasonal anomaly, I figured I better get the garage cleaned up so that I can actually use it to park my van in.  There were just a few things that needed to go up in the mezzanine.  Trouble is that there were already quite a few things up there and being as short as I am, even on a ladder, I knew I would have trouble getting some of my bulkier items up and over what was already tossed up there.  The solution was to take the fake Christmas tree down.  Getting those irregular shaped bags down left room for the hoses and a small table that were previously keeping my van out in the cold.

Having the tree down in pieces, I had to move it or I was no better off than before.  So the tree pieces came inside.  I could have hauled them downstairs and made room for them in the furnace room but I knew that I would just be hauling them back up again shortly.  Laziness set in and I decided to just set the tree up in the living room where it would grace our abode over the holidays.

I left it bare for a few days but then figured that while I was home with some time on my hands I may as well trim it.  With a winter wonderland peeping in my windows it somehow seemed appropriate to have a prettily clad Christmas tree peering out.

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Here’s a close-up from my lying camera.  It insists on showing things bluish when in fact the tree is covered in gold and ivory without a hint of blue anywhere.

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I think my fakie tree is supposed to be a blue spruce and maybe the tree is casting some kind of wierd bluish tinge on everything.  Or it could just be my lying camera.

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Here’s the same picture with a little photo editing to make it look a little more like it does in real life.  In reality my walls are a colour called artichoke heart.  In this picture they look more dreamy creamy.  That’s closer than the pale grey colour I got in the above picture with that not so truthful camera of mine.

My work got an “Ooh… very nice” from DA and an “It needs a star or angel on the top, I think”.  The man has spoken so I feel entitled to purchase something for my bald tree.

Last year’s special ornament is hanging front and central.

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It’s a reminder of a very big blessing from last year:  the purchase of the house we’re living in and loving.  I ordered a ceramic frame with our wedding picture in it for this year’s special ornament.  On the back is a place where I can write something to remind me of why I bought it.  (Hopefully, I won’t get Alzheimer’s anytime soon and forget about my wedding but in case I do I’ll dutifully write out this year’s big blessing on the ornament.)  I hope in the years to come our tree will be less of a commercial decoration and more of a reminder of God’s goodness to us.  The little house really stands out for now.  The song “One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn’t the same…” seems appropriate so when I look at the tree I’m going to give thanks for our beautiful home and pray for those who are homeless this season.

I’m hugely drawn to beauty.  Being in a well-organized, tastefully decorated space makes my muscles relax, my soul calm and my spirit sing.  It’s like my whole cerebral experience is tied to my eye sockets.  I have the  other four senses but they are so minor compared to my ability to see.  I’ve honestly thanked God many, many times that I have eyes that work.

Beauty is very subjective in nature.  What I find lovely may not do anything for another person.  I tinker because I’m trying to find out what it is that I actually find beautiful.  I find pictures in magazines and on-line that “wow” me but some of those places I would only like to visit.  A lot of them would be hard environments for me to actually live in.  It seems to me that some people intuitively know what would make their space lovely and liveable.  I’m not one of those people.  I experiment and by trial and error I find out what I like and don’t like.  I’m not willing to invest a lot of money unless I really know that I’m going to love something forever.

So here’s what I have found out about myself so far:

1.  I’m into neutral tones.  Put me in a room with lots of creams, browns and blacks and I feel at home.  I use other colours as backdrops but they’re pretty neutral too.

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You can see some of my preferred colour scheme in these photos.  I have black frames all over my house and I love to fill them with brown-toned pictures.  Put them against a cream coloured wall and it works for me.  I generally don’t regret painting things white or cream colour.  It just makes them more beautiful to me.  The peacock above used to be brassy coloured but some white paint and some “tea-staining” made it go from “interesting” to “I really like it!”.

2.  I like a little ornamentation but I don’t like things too cluttered.  Remember my Christmas mantle?  It’s become undone because it was just too fussy looking.  I am learning in this house that scale is important.  I tend to buy a lot of little things because they’re nice and they’re cheap.  Too many little things put together makes me feel stressed.  I’m better off to buy a few bigger things, have less and enjoy my settings more.  I’m just learning this.  That’s what I love about inexpensive tinkering; I learn!

3.  I like things very symmetrical.  I line things up and make things balanced on both sides a lot.  For whatever reason, this is pleasing to me.

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What I’ve learned about myself so far helped me to quickly get these:

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My guys aren’t into the picture taking thing.  Forget trying to get them to invest time into wearing colour coordinated clothing.  They want to be done the whole deal in under five minutes.  Changing the tone to sepia helped me get us looking coordinated colour wise.  The picture is unfussy and relaxed which also scores points with me.  And I got my ducks all lined up and balanced just like I like things.  The guys put up with a grand total of seven pictures to get these two that I liked.  Some of that was due to postioning the camera correctly to get us all in the shot and sort of in the middle of it.  I have a 10 second timer on it so there wasn’t a huge amount of time for D to set the camera and then get in the photo himself.  I’m happy with these.  They’re beautiful to me.

My in-laws handed off a couple of gift bags to me on Sunday.  I was busy trying to figure out a problem in Waumbaland and they quickly scooted off to the service after the hand-off.  At the house I found this:

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Two unfinished nutcrackers await my attention to be transformed into Mr. and Mrs.  The tiniest of diamond  rings

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and some paint and paintbrushes were included for the creative process.  Don’t expect any pics anytime soon; I’ll have to give these two some thought first.

The other bag was equally interesting.  In it were some ornaments.

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This tiny angel in its gold snow globe should go well with the gold theme I’m trying for this year

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and these poorly photographed moose are just too cute to not hang up somewhere.

All of these together will provide beautiful memories of the Christmas of 2008.

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Orillia has a very pretty tradition of starting the “official Christmas season” with a candlelit walk down main street.

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Literally hundreds of locals gather, get lighted candles and sing there way down that central road led by a town crier.  As the throng makes its way along, the lights on the trees lining the street are lit.  It’s as though it takes the throng walking by for the street to be lit up.

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The sea of little lights makes its way to the Orillia Opera House where Orillia’s official Christmas tree resides.  The town crier does a little “crying” and gets all the throngers to yell out for Father Christmas to make an appearance.

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F.C. looks a little dark and mysterious in my photo so you’ll have to believe me when I say that his costume was really well done.  Then all the throngers count down and the official Christmas tree lights up for the first time.

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There is a big pine tree under those green and blue light pricks.  My camera just couldn’t find it in the dark.

There is a brass band on hand and they start belting out old Christmas hymns and pretty much everyone starts singing or humming.  A local shop provides free hot chocolate and cookies for all the kids.  It’s really a lovely small town tradition.  I’m glad that I could be a part of it and let my little light shine.

For almost four years after my first husband died, the boys and I lived with friends in their spruced up basement.  The rooms we occupied were spacious and the cost of living was super low but it was still one of the hardest living situations I’ve ever endured.  There were a lot of us in a not so big house and the rooms the boys and I could call our own had no windows in them.  The only way to get a little alone time was to go to what felt like a dungeon to me or to leave the house.  I chose the latter often.  My fatherless boys had to go everywhere with me and they were probably subjected a lot more window shopping at the mall than any other toddlers.  I especially liked to go around Christmas time.  It’s a lot of work to get little ones dressed up to play outside and they tend to only be able to do it for a short time.  I did take them out into the snow like a good mama should but found that I needed R and R after sledding, snowman building and snowball fighting with them.  The mall was our friend.

We didn’t celebrate Christmas commercially back then.  There was no tree in the home or gifts to buy.  No lights.  No decorations.  Nothing of that sort.  I got my fill of pretty things by browsing the mall trees and decor.  While I oohed and aahed over colour combinations, my boybarians flew to the nutcrackers.  They liked those funny little guys with their funny little faces.  When we moved out of the basement to our own condo, I decided to buy the guys their own nutcrackers.  The first ones we bought were tiny ones from the Dollar Store.  D and P loved them.  Each year we would buy a few more and last year we started marking the year on the bottoms of the ones we bought.  It’s still exciting for they guys to welcome this year’s new nutcracker.

Most of our nutcracker collection is sitting at the front door entrance this year.  Want to meet some of our characters?

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The one carrying the red flag was the first to get a date put on the bottom.

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The tall green one is this year’s addition.  D and I found him marked down 60% when the Christmas stuff first came out.  (Yes, we still do window shopping together sometimes!)

Not all of our nutcrackers are at the front entrance.

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This one is standing guard in the main floor bathroom

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and this one’s on my kitchen window sill.

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This fella is hanging in the dining room.  Pull his string and his arms and legs move.

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Homer Simpson as a nutcracker is the boys’ favourite.  I put him in their bathroom since he isn’t my favourite character.  D found him after Christmas last year marked down and pleaded with me to give him a home in our collection.

I don’t know if any of this makes my house more beautiful but it was fun to see the boys’ faces light up when they saw the nutcracker army front and central when they walked in the door coming home from school.  This collection will be divided up and go with them when they leave home.  For now though they are part of our past and tell a part of our story as a family and therefore get a place to stand proud over the holidays.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.