December 07, 2007

Winter in Canada

Piles of snow is certainly a sign that winter arrived early. My nice new leather boots are encrusted with salt and my coat zipper snapped in the cold. Fashion is foolish. I'm back to the Michelin man look with my 'oh-my-god-it's-cold' down parka with my legs disappearing into giant Apollo 11 boots. My hands are woolly stubs. Bardot - you never had your hairdo ruined by a toque. Still, it's like walking into a Christmas card with such white snow, evergreens and a blue sky.

Pepper cat's lastest "escape" out the front door lasted 2 minutes. I whistled and a furball flew past me back into the warm house. Ha, fooled you!

July 12, 2007

It must be July! Every boater I talked to this week is fed up, not just with the rain, but with inconsiderate boaters. Everything from people "saving" park docks in the Thousand Islands to boat congestion on the Rideau. You can't legislate common sense unfortunately. I saw a boat drag a water-skier through a weed patch - he is now "green" and very lucky not to have a family of ducks pasted to his face! And yes, it was within 100' of shore, so it was also illegal.

Everyone says it's amazing no one has died on our section of the Rideau Waterway (now a world heritage site), south of Manotick. There are just too many speeding boats, PWCs, kids swimming, people fishing and canoeing. Boats going 40 kts (74 kph) belong on the St. Lawrence, not in a narrow channel. Cruisers throw huge wakes, especially towing tubes and boards. I finally sold my runabout after it nearly sank right at the dock! I can't swim or paddle anyway, until I get rid of painful 'golf elbow'.. I mean 'sailing elbow'!

May 08, 2007

Spring work

Especially in spring, I wonder if life wouldn't be better if there was less to maintain. More time and money to do other things. Still, I don't think I'm ready for a condo just yet. Before spring arrived, we went with friends to South Carolina for the golf and beach - waves and seagulls make the perfect soundtrack for thinking about life. I'd like to simplify my life so I can do a few things while I'm still healthy and fit enough - travel, sail trip, try some new things. I took lots of photos like this (aren't digital cameras great!) as I walked and thought. On returning home, spring work awaited (one bit of luck, the river didn't flood) and a sequence of workmen arrived, fixing the drainage system, installing an Internet connection, replacing the sliding door (then getting it fixed), filling holes in the back yard, aerating and planting grass. Then I phoned about kitchen hardware under warranty (still waiting), and trying to replace a mirror that mysteriously fell and broke while we were away (?). I nearly didn't notice crocuses, daffodils and tulips spreading bursts of colour around the yard! Then off to take the tarp off the boat, cleaning/waxing/painting (2 hours driving each time). In a few days, it will get launched, and we have to raise the mast and rigging the entire boat. We are both getting grumpy. Pray nothing breaks so we can fit in some play time!

March 15, 2007

Simple Living (live cheap, but live)

Last week The Hour's latest installment of Portraits of Canadians aired featuring Simple Liver Marv from Omemee, Ontario. Everyone wanted to know how he managed to live without a job. Marv said:
"Simply, the key to the whole thing is learning to live within your means. Getting out of debt and staying out of debt is the only way out. If you can at some period in your life become debt free and end up with a roof over your head and owe nothing to anybody, at that moment you will sense a great feeling of freedom. ... Take pride not in what you have saved but in what you don’t spend. Resolve to separate your needs from your wants."

A friend summed it up best, "If I don't spend it, I don't have to make it." Works for me.

March 14, 2007

Small Things with Great Love

(This was on a yellowed clipping by Craig Kielburger, Chair of the Board, founder and volunteer with Free The Children)

We learned our greatest lesson in humility in the slums of Calcutta. Marc and I spent a day with Mother Teresa at her convent. We asked how she kept hope alive surrounded by much sickness and death. "They die one at a time, so I save them one at a time," she humbly replied.

It's easy to get bogged down by staggering numbers. It's natural to feel over-whelmed by the immensity of problems. But with her simple words, Mother Teresa reminded us that behind each problem, each issue and each statistic, there is a human life that can be made better through our choices, our actions and our passion. Through one small meaningful action after another, any of us can change the world. Her parting words to us became our touchstone:

"In our lives, we can do no great things," she said, "only small things with great love."

March 12, 2007

Ottawa just finished its budget debacle again and I can see so many ways they have saved money - and my tax bill. The city recreation department offers fitness classes (aerobics, aquafit, yoga, etc.) well below market rates. This not only puts local fitness businesses at a big disadvantage trying to compete, but also costs us higher taxes to subsidize these classes. A private business has to pay for facilities (pool, rooms, lockers, change rooms), sports equipment, parking (and snow removal), first aid, emergency equipment, insurance, advertising, web site, office services, and even a lifeguard! The city doesn't appear to cost these things into their pricing - how else can they charge a third as much for year-round membership? And that includes (in some cases) 16 classes a week to choose from rather than 3! I personally know two people who were teaching privately who work for the city recreational programs. It's only a matter of time before my favorite class disappears as the paying customers follow them.

Another obvious saving would be to amalgamate school systems. One office instead of several. One school bus system instead of ... let's see, how many buses are there? Buses for public and Catholic, primary and high schools, kindergarten and junior kindergarten, more for french schools. Every single bus you see involves a huge amount of cost, operating, maintenance, insurance, salaries, parking, etc. It's no wonder I was paying more for taxes in Kanata in 2001 (small house, 35' wide lot) than someone with a half million dollar house on a quarter acre of land in Richmond, B.C. Not to mention that I lived within walking distance of 3 schools, yet at least 4 school buses went down my street every morning.

January 05, 2007

Boating in January

Today I saw a ski-boat on the Rideau River in Ottawa - a first for January (it's 9C and cloudy). We were wondering when someone would do it after golfers made the newspaper recently. The grass is green and some shrubs are budding. I haven't heard any weather jibes from BC relatives lately. Seems they have OUR normal winter weather.

January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

As I look across the open water on the river in the low afternoon sun, I'm amazed at the weather this past year. Snow finally, but it's soggy out there from contant rain. At least it's white, and the yard looks like a Christmas card. The bad news on New Years Eve was freezing rain; good news is the power only went out for a minute! The automatic lights and cordless phone always wake me up when the power comes back on.