Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sparrow's Journey

As they have done for the last few years, sparrows have chosen one of our hanging fuchsia plants in which to build their nest and get on with the business of life.

We don't know if it's the same pair of sparrows who return year after year, or if it's one of their offspring. They busily collected twigs and sticks, and for several days flew into and out of the plant.

Finally the nest was complete, and on May 10, the nest became a nursery.

The sparrows continued to fly into and out of the planter, usually approaching from underneath. On May19th we noticed the eggs had hatched. Mom and Dad sparrow were now busier than ever. Insects, worms, bird seeds – constantly feeding the little ones.

By May 24…

And the work of the providers continued. Back and forth, back and forth Mom and Dad sparrow flew to keep the hungry little birds fed. By May 29…

The babies had feathers! In less than a week they learned to fly, left the nest, and never came back.
At least we think they never came back. Maybe they returned at night and slept there. Maybe they just grew so big we didn't recognize them, couldn't tell them apart from their mom and dad or any other sparrow.

Baby birds don't stay small for long. We learned this one year when crows hatched some eggs in a nearby tree. Those babies cawed and cawed  all day, it seemed. I had the mistaken expectation that crow babies would be cute, at least for a little while.

But when I finally saw one that had fallen from the nest, I got a reality check. The baby was as big and ugly and temperamental as any full-size crow.

Well, that's nature. Hatch the eggs, feed them fast, throw them out of the nest. What birds do in two weeks takes humans 20 or more years  to accomplish with their young.

It's nice to know these birds feel safe enough to nest in our presence.  [The abundance of bird seed holders we have might also factor into their decision. A regular bird smorgasbord!]

– Cat

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cosmic conversations

He: I heard they shot a rocket into space the other day. Going to Mars? The moon?

Me: heading to the International Space Station with a load of supplies.

He: so, what kind of supplies?

Me: if I had to guess, I'd say food and toilet paper...

He: ha ha. Wonder what they'd do if they ran out of food.

Me: they'd have to eat each other.

He: what, like you eat my hand and I'll eat yours? Kind of impractical.

Well, at least one of us is sensible.


He: I heard they discovered a bunch of new planets...

Me: yeah. Far far away. They call them exoplanets.

He: and one of them could be another earth...

Me: lots of people on this earth are probably ready to pack up and leave. New planets to plunder. Too bad they are so far away. 39 light years.

Considering a light year is 9 trillion km, it'll probably take 500 years to get there.

[Apparently the current fastest spaceship would take more than 18,000 years to travel 1 ly. So my calculation's a bit off. A lot off, according to the link..]

space travel time

He: guess  they have to invent warp speed. Beam me up, Scotty...

Me:  who knows – maybe they already have and aren't telling anyone. I think they're also working on teleporters. The future is now.

And now I have his picture in my mind. Billionaire explorers land on new earth and find it's a beautiful unspoiled world inhabited by peaceful natives who take care of their planet. There will be a "take me to your leader" moment. And then the natives will be decimated. Oh, wait, didn't all this already happen?

He: maybe they learned their lesson...

Me: I have become a pessimist where earthlings are concerned.

And here's a cute lesson on our own solar system.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Remember Mama

Judy Hartwell  January 10, 1922 –  June 21, 2016

Mom would be 95 today.

Although it's been six months since her death, I still catch myself thinking did she see or hear about that, or I wonder what she'll say when I tell her this, about a news story, or showbiz gossip, things she was interested in. And then I remember ...

And I have many memories of Mom. A few highlights:

Whenever she sang those familiar German songs, all was right with the world.

Christmas Eve was a big event in our house. We would dress up in our finest clothes and line up, smallest to biggest. [the line got longer every two years!] When we heard a bell tinkling, we entered the living room and got our gifts. Pandemonium! And lots of fun. Turkey and potato salad for dinner. The one time of year we were allowed to drink Canada Dry Ginger Ale. And of course the delicious cookies and fruitcakes she made.

When I was nine, the second oldest of six, we moved into a new three-bedroom house. With Mom and Dad there were eight of us, sometimes nine when Granny came. One bathroom! But Mom made it work. We had our chores and the young ones were well-behaved. Though rambunctious at times.

Mom was a good cook. She always had our meals ready: breakfast, lunch, dinner. We ate healthy. Liver, spinach, tasty when she made it, not so much when I tried. Fridays were fish day. And Palatschinken, pan sized crepes filled with jam and rolled up, dusted with powdered sugar. Special treat! [The only other person? I ever heard say the word was the Count on Sesame Street!] I think about those weekly food shopping trips and shudder. As she had so much to look after besides groceries, it was convenient that  throughout the 50s so many things came to the door: milk, bread, dry cleaning. She kept track of everything, including the weekly $0.35 to the paperboy and the $1 donation every Sunday to the church.

She was what today they call a fashionista. She kept up with the latest styles–how I loved peeking through her closet. My school friends always commented on how good she looked. In the late 60s/early 70s she was more modern than me! [Miniskirts, hotpants, high boots…]

Once a week she would get her hair done. And every week a surprise for us. Would she be blonde? Redhead? Raven black? Once she came home with blue/green hair! It was for display, for her stylist. And I do believe she or her picture were on TV. One of those local noon hour shows on our Edmonton CFRN television station.

Mom always kept our brood together on vacation trips. She had a system. She kept track of the youngest child. Then the oldest kept track of the next youngest. And so on. The highlight of my life, at age 11, was our trip to California. Dad borrowed a small trailer from a friend. Li'l Loafer. And it was SMALL. Comfy for four? But Mom made it work. Six slept in the trailer, two, either Mom and Dad or my sister and I slept in the car. I remember the route we took, the cities we saw, how we all sang "California Here I Come" over and over.

Good thing there weren't seatbelt laws in those days. Dad and Mom were in the front seat, along with my older sister holding the youngest; I and my three younger brothers played, argued, read, and slept in the backseat.

Then there were carefree summer vacations spent at a cottage at Lake Eden. And once again, for eight people it was a SMALL cottage. Two bedrooms, kitchen, living room.  Outhouses strategically located. But for us it was the greatest place. Mom made it so.

In May 1965, Mom had her seventh child. Less than three months later we went to the lake as usual, and Mom wore her bikinis as usual, without any sign that she had just given birth!

In June of that year my sister got married and left home. So there were six of us again. A year later I married and left home. In 1967, Mom, Dad, and the five younger kids moved to British Columbia. Every few years we would visit them, always returning home saying, "We  have to move there one day."

That day came in July, 1980, when we packed all our belongings and moved to B.C. Mom, Dad, and my youngest brother were living on a lovely acreage in South Surrey. [The oldest of my brothers got married in 1973, the next oldest died in 1975, the next one lived in his own house, and my younger sister moved out in 1976.

Over the next 20 years Mom saw her family expand as everyone got married and had children: 17 grandchildren. Family get-togethers were fun and hectic. [And still the family grows – 11 great-grandchildren at last count. . .]

When my father died in 2001, I, my husband and son moved in with Mom in the big South Surrey house. It was 35 years since I last lived with her, and I worried that it might be awkward, for we had grown apart, separated by time and distance.

But how amazing to discover we had much in common. Starting with some TV programs that we both enjoyed. Every day we watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. We were both fond of Frasier and watched it together until its cancellation. We watched every figure skating competition on TV and became armchair critics of each skater's style and outfit. I found it curious that both of us had over the years watched almost every British mystery series on PBS  and CBC.  How we loved the original Sherlock Holmes shows, and of course our beloved Poirot. And, we even watched the same soap opera!


Mom kept scrupulous track of her finances. In that again I echoed her, having for years tracked bills and mortgages on spreadsheets, first by hand, then by computer. She did everything by hand, and didn't quite trust calculators–she did math on paper or in her head. Oddly, I've done the same.

She kept on top of the news and knew what was happening where and when in the world, and never failed to voice her opinion on world leaders, reality stars, or the mayor of Vancouver. She had a radio beside her bed tuned to an all-news channel. She never listened to anything else unless it was Strauss waltz music by AndrĂ© Rieu. 

Mom and I were both readers. She went through the morning newspaper from cover to cover, as did I. She read magazines and her weekly TV guide until her eyesight started failing and she needed a magnifying glass to make out the words.

In 2004 Mom sold the old acreage and purchased a new one several blocks away. Her "dream house" she called it, and was so happy and proud to live there. We moved with her, and enjoyed the larger space, the beautiful yard, the quiet neighbourhood. We had such good times there together.

But in 2010, after nine years with us, she decided that at 88 it was time for her to move to an assisted living facility. We purchased the house from her, and though it was ours, it took us a long time to get over calling it Mom's house. [Even now, we call the bedroom she used "Mom's room."]

She had a lovely suite at Whitecliff, and I believe she was happy there. Once a week we picked her up and went to IHOP for dinner [a habit we had gotten into when we first moved in with her]. There we could catch up on what we thought about world events, our soap opera, what our kids were up to, gossip about our waiter, who we had come to know quite well, or the world travels of the lady who trimmed our toenails.

What a sharp mind and terrific memory she had. She told us many tales of her childhood and youth, about a world so different from ours. It was easy to see her as a sassy teenager and bold young woman. Come to think of it, she was still sassy and bold till near the end. 

In early 2016 Mom suffered a health episode from which she never fully recovered, and on June 21 she passed from life.

But the memories live on. As does the music. For you Mom, with love, from Cathrine:

Monday, December 12, 2016



American TV commercials for prescription drugs are interesting and terrifying. FDA regulations demand when a named product is touted for a certain condition it must include  ALL possible side effects.

I think this is a good thing. For Americans. Because their pharmaceutical industry is HUGE. 

I don't mean to belittle those drug companies as what I'm sure they are doing is aimed at helping people. [And of course, making lots of money.]

But that doesn't mean I can't have a little fun with the subject.

These drugs invariably have names that include an X, Y or Z and may go something like this:

ZYGGYX can alleviate that aggravating pain in the neck you get from coworkers, neighbours, relatives, collection agencies, the late pizza delivery guy, your dog pooping on the kitchen floor.

WARNING: possible side effects include dizziness, sobriety, sleepiness, awareness, blurry vision, 20/20 vision, depression, happiness, hirsuteness, baldness, stupidity, intelligence.

DO NOT TAKE: if you have a heartbeat or no heartbeat, or, if a woman, if you have zero or more children, or plan to  have children at a future time. If you are a man, simply do not take. Do not even open a bottle. Best not to watch the commercial.

Not to be taken by anyone under or over 50. Not to be administered to animals, fish, or vegetables.

Oh, and do not operate machinery. Or drive.

I think that's a pretty thorough list.  

Wouldn't it be nice to have medicine that doesn't cause any side effects at all?

Other commercials:

There are those where sound is enough. You really don't need the visuals.

"Oh Steve, oh Steve, oh Steve..."  Makes me smile. What's it for again? Or that resonant truck-driver-he-man-cowboy voice, "Guts, Glory, Ram." No mistaking that product.

Other commercials have no voice, don't need a voice, but they're easy on the eyes. Matthew McConaughey and those Lincoln commercials. I can picture him saying, "Alright alright alright."

There is also a commercial that catches the attention of children and pets.

In the family room, the two year old child was lining up little cars [her latest fascination] and the dog was  chewing on a doggy toothbrush. Both ignored the TV.

Then a commercial came on, a take-out coffee cup with sexy legs and long eyelashes dancing the tango with a moustachioed pink doughnut. Child and dog both popped to attention and watched. I wondered what was going through their minds at the time.

The commentary  spoken by a voice with a bad accent announced: "Bad breath isn't sexy, fresh breath is." Didn't mean anything to either of them.

TV series:

Murdoch Mysteries – CBC

This was Mom's favourite show. It premiered in 2008 and she watched it faithfully every time it was on. I never watched myself but thought I'd now give it a try. Reruns were on almost continually and I probably could've started  with the 2008 season. But marathon watching  more than 150 one-hour episodes seemed a little daunting, so I began with 2013. [still working my way through early 2016].

Setting is Toronto at the turn of the 19th century. Think Bones meets CSI in 1900. Detective Murdoch is a bit stiff and straightlaced, but has an impressive, inventive mind. His wife, medical examiner Dr. Julia Ogden is more free-spirited and feminist, and also impressive.

The show is well-made, true to its times, involving real history of the day. It also brings in guest characters who lived then: Houdini, Thomas Edison, young Winston Churchill, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilfrid Laurier....

Tackling serious subjects and usually adding comic touches, the show is enjoyable to watch.


The Hateful Eight

written and directed by Quentin Tarantino

[oh, oh, I still haven't gotten over Reservoir Dogs]

Yes, it's a vile, violent movie, with an excess of blood and killing, and filled with, yeah, hateful characters.

Starts pretty tame, characters are quite talky, but I soon felt there was something deeper going on. Most of the hateful, save two or three, were not who they said they were. And after watching more killings, what seemed hundreds of gallons of blood, I realized this was more comedy than tragedy. A parody, even farce.

I summarize it this way: two bounty hunters, a badass female prisoner, a possible sheriff, a Mexican, an Englishman, an old Civil War general, a couple of gunslingers –  are holed up in a bar during a nasty blizzard. All distrust and hate each other. And then there is a twist to the story…

In the end I concluded it was brilliant.

Earworm of the day: protest song from 1969. I think America needs another Woodstock.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

John and Cat's Excellent Adventure

Maybe yesterday was Friday the 13th in disguise.

Part One:

We had supper at IHOP and were leaving to go home.
It was cold out, so  John started the van, got the heater going.
Locked me into my spot, put my seatbelt on, closed the door.

By the time he walked around to his door, the automatic locks kicked in.
He did not have an extra key so he couldn't get in, I was strapped in so tight I could not reach the unlock button, the handle to open the door, or even the tab to unroll the window.

He called BCAA.
It would take 15 or more minutes to get help.
Called our son who said he'd get there fast as he could – he had a little one to bundle up.
I was getting warmer inside, John was getting colder outside.

I was getting very hot. [couldn't reach the controls.]
He was looking for a rock to break the window.
Luckily son arrived with the extra key and saved us.

Lesson learned – never start your vehicle unless you have an extra key or leave something open, don't strap the passenger in until ready to go.

Part Two: [mostly John's adventure]

I was safe at home and John had gone to visit some friends. I got a phone call about 10.
Call display showed, "Incoming Call."
Thinking it was a telemarketer, I picked up, ready to hang up again.

But it was a Constable from the Burnaby RCMP. She asked to speak to John.
Now any late-night call from the RCMP could be either a hoax or bad news.
I told her he wasn't home yet, what was this about?
"He was involved in an accident earlier. Just want to talk to him."

After calling him to find out what was happening, he said to give her his cell number.
When he got home he told me the story of his "adventure."

He was driving to the city on a two lane highway, everyone going about 70. It expanded to three lanes. Cars in each lane, big semi in the slow lane.
He was in the middle lane, traffic ahead traffic behind, traffic on each side.

The car in the fast lane veered into his lane, almost colliding. He veered into the slow lane, the semi veered to the shoulder.

The car that tarted this came to a stop. John stopped too, walked to the driver's side, knocked on the window. Girl of about 18 or 19 driving. Lighted cell phone on the seat beside her.
He told her she almost killed, not only herself, but at least six other people. Was she on her cell at the time, is that why it happened?

She told him to f--- off, gave him the finger, drove off.
He made a note of her license plate, and continued on his way.

At one point he was ahead of her, and she in turn got his license number, for she lodged a complaint with the RCMP that this was a road rage incident. Hence the call from the Constable.

John explained to the Constable what happened, the driver's age, the cell phone, etc. Constable was surprised as the complaint had come from a woman in her 50s. She was going to look into it.

We figured the girl was driving her mother's car, probably got scared that she was in trouble, so told her mother about this bad old guy yelling at her, possibly threatening her, who knows what she said. So mother decided to take care of it.

If the girl is driving around town like a maniac, mother fixing things is not helpful.
I hope we hear the outcome of this incident.

Thank goodness Friday the 18th is over!


I heard this the other day. Oh the good old bad days...



Thursday, July 21, 2016

Brain scan

Good news! I read that as we get older and have those senior moments, brain farts, whatever you want to call the blank space that sometimes follows the questions, "do you remember..." or "who's sang..." we should not jump to the conclusion that senility is around the corner.

According to the great Dr Oz, the older we get the more information our brain has to absorb. This means our brain is crammed with memories, facts, trivia, etc. and it simply takes longer to sort through and fetch the answer. This is why we wake up in the middle of the night with the answer to, "where did I leave my keys?"

This got us talking.  Brains should come equipped with a scanner. Better yet – a search engine. We could Google the question and within seconds answers will pop up. Why, we could be a living smart phone!

There would be limitless applications. I'm sure Apple is working on this right now. 

I can't wait

– Cat

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Runaway Spider

Last night, I saw a big spider [well not BIG big, but big enough] stroll across the bed.

I said to my husband, "Spider!"

He grabbed a Kleenex. I took my eye off the spider for just a second and the darn thing jumped off the bed. We looked for him/her but he/she had disappeared.

When it comes to tracking invasive insects, my husband is not one to throw in the towel, or Kleenex in this case. He leaves no stone, or piece of furniture, unturned until he catches his quarry.

Aha! He spotted it, pounced, and mushed it. The spider  had been nearly invisible, sitting on top of a dark blue cloth. Neat camouflage. Smart spider. [Must've been a she.] 

But then, it just sat there, probably eyes closed, legs hiding its head. [I was now convinced it was a he.]

No matter. RIP little spider. [He was no longer big after being squished.]

We knew from previous encounters with spiders that they have a keen sense of hearing. This one had heard me call his name, that's why he went running, hoping to hide from the... humans? Big people? We probably looked like King Kong to him.

Well, how would he know what to call us? He wouldn't even know that he was a spider. That's our name for him. In his tiny little mind maybe he thought he was a god, creating fancy intricate webs to snare lesser creatures and gobble them up.

All we humans can do is spin fancy webs in our minds. 

And once in a while humans do something magical. [Could've done without the advertising, though.]


-- Cat