WINTER OLYMPICS – SENIOR STYLE

Yesterday in Ottawa, two marvellous events occurred at the same time, making it a monumental day for seniors!

First of all, it was a Wednesday, which meant that all city buses were free for seniors. Every week, this really gets the citizens of golden years out and heading for local malls. Especially at Christmas time.

The second breathtaking circumstance was that it was also the Old Age Pension payment date. You know what that means – every person 65 years or older goes to the bank. We all have direct deposit, but we’re not stupid – we can’t trust that the federal government will pass along our  $585.49 unless we stand in a line as long as a football field, to check it out for ourselves.

Being, good, card-carrying seniors, my husband and I put on our winter shoes, our parkas, scarves, toques, and mitts and left the house to wait for the number 40 bus, to go to the mall. The 40 is always either 3 minutes early or eight minutes late. Yesterday, it was -30C (-22F), so of course the bus was eight minutes late, and we were out there early because, you know, it could have come early!

Finally we spotted it coming around the corner and this is when the Senior Winter Olympics, Ottawa style, started.

The first event, for which I received the gold medal for Canada, was Bus Hopping. It is not as easy as it seems. The bus stop was not shovelled out and we had a pile of snow to slog through. The bus pulled up and I had to climb onto a snow bank, take a step forward, and JUMP onto the bus.

I am almost 73 years old and you would have thought my jumping days were past me, but I was like a gazelle. I nailed the landing and earned a few smiles and congratulations from the other passengers. So the Hop, Step, and Jump On the Bus event was a success.

On the 30 minute journey to Shopping Heaven, I spotted a couple of nimble seniors doing the Ice Walking event. This takes place after every freeze, thaw, freeze, and freeze even more weather. The senior approaches an icy patch and decides to go for it! No skates or cleats are used in this event. To do so would mean disqualification!

I saw an old lady actually do a couple of double axels, a flying camel, and she finished with a beautifully executed sit spin. I gave her a 9.6 and she gave me a thumbs up as she boarded the ambulance.

At about the 10 minute mark of the ride, my husband drew my attention to the Two-Seniors Bobsled event, that was taking place near the Science and Technology Centre on St. Laurent Blvd. Two old geezers, sorry, I mean, two gentlemen of a certain age, were sitting on their shopping bags, and flying like bullets down the embankment, only to come to a halt at the museum door. They were way ahead of their nearest competitors, a couple of retired civil servants (you can tell them by their suits).

We arrived at Shopping Heaven, and saw the Mixed-Doubles Slush Jumping event was just getting under way. Freeze. Thaw. Freeze. Thaw. SLUSH. The French word for slush is neige fondant, which paints a picture, doesn’t it?

In this event, husbands and wives dodge piles of drippy, salt-laden slush and try to make it through the mall doors without getting sprayed by the 3,657 buses that race by. It was very exciting, but my husband and I narrowly lost to a couple of spry 68 year olds who I think were taking supplements! I spotted a suspicious package in the wife’s tote bag, but she said it was just her blood pressure medication! Hah!!!

Inside all was festive and the Christmas carols were dancing in my head when we came upon two teams of women from a couple of rival seniors residences, just starting a game of Women’s Cane Hockey in the mall’s centre court. I knew it was hockey, because several of the women smiled at us nicely and I noticed that they didn’t have any teeth.

The women from The Good Buddies beat the The Golden Girls by a score of 3 to 2. There were several penalties, and a game misconduct, when Maude, the captain of the Good Buddies said her grandchildren were cuter than Millie’s from the Golden Girls. But they stopped fighting when I showed them a photo, taken this past summer, of my eight grandkids. They both had to agree that mine were the cutest EVER!

The morning’s events ended with the Biathlon event which includes Cross-Mall Shopping and Mailing a Christmas parcel to Alberta. Only the hardiest athletes are able to enter this event and I have heard that the contestants do their training throughout the year by waiting for the number 114 bus, which never comes, because it inexplicably and with no warning, changed its number to the 40.

Yes, this is my bus and yes, it is eight minutes late again.

I concluded the day with two gold medals.

Please stand while the flag is raised and we sing, Oh Canada!

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Waiting for the 40 bus. It was 8 minutes late!

Thank you for reading and have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year. – Maureen

 

A Tender Moment

One day in Montreal.

It’s funny how a specific moment can tug on our hearts decades later. This little story goes back to another time, another place, and another family.

More than 40 years ago, we moved from Ottawa, to Montreal. I was eight and a half months pregnant the day we moved in and gave birth to our fourth daughter two weeks later.

A few months later, a new family moved in next door. They were originally from the Philippines and their children were close in age to our own. When they moved in, they had five children, and she was pregnant with their sixth. She had a boy to bring their family’s total to four girls and two boys.

They were a lovely family, whose names all began with the letter “R”. Roberto, Regina, Raquel, Rowena, R…., and Raphael.

A couple of years later, their cousins from the Philippines moved in with them for a few months, until they found a home of their own. This family had six boys. They called themselves the MAPSERs, because their names started with those letters. So there were now five adults (including one Nanny) and twelve children living next door.

As far as we could tell, they all got along and there was never a moment when the kids disturbed the neighbourhood. A couple of days after the MAPSERs moved in, in the middle of May, we had several inches of snow, and those boys were all out playing in the snow in their SOCK FEET!

The youngest boy had a twisted foot, so he limped when he walked. From my kitchen window, I saw the twelve of them walking to the school bus every day. One day this little boy was having a difficult time because the school bus was coming and he had fallen behind.

His cousin, Regina, looked back and spotted him limping along. Without a word, she stopped, went back to him, crouched down, and waited patiently while he climbed on her back.

I think of all of them often. I think of the boy’s surgeries and hope that they were successful and that he now walks straight and sure-footed. I think of Regina, wordlessly offering her back to her little cousin. I pray God’s blessings on all of them.

A house full of adults and children.

A house full of love.

I was privileged to see a tiny example of this, one day in Montreal.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Have a wonderful day. – Maureen

 

Too Cold to Peck

As a Canadian, it is pretty well my duty to talk and write about the weather. We experience such extremes of temperature here in Ottawa, that it is easy to do so. A few mornings ago, this was me (take my word for it, it’s me) at the bus stop.

Waiting for the 114 bus. It was 15 minutes late!

Waiting for the 114 bus. It was 15 minutes late!

It was about 100 degrees below zero and it doesn’t matter if you measure in celsius or farenheit, it was cold. But you can’t stay indoors forever. I was just going to the bank (inside a mall) and if anything could convince me to take up electronic banking, this weather would do it.

Last week we went for a walk on the Greenboro Trail and it was beautiful. Because of the Emerald Ash Borer, an insect that has decimated 25% of Ottawa’s trees, there were more woodpeckers in the trees than I had ever seen. They had obviously come to eat the insects and were making a racket pecking at the trees.

The Greenboro Trail

The Greenboro Trail

But a couple of days ago, the woods were silent, except for the crackle of the snow as we crunched along. There were no woodpeckers in sight.

It was too cold to peck!

Thanks for reading and have a WARM day! – Maureen

Winter in Ottawa – on the Greenboro Trail

When we moved here to Ottawa, on December 15, 2011, the grass was still green, the temperature was well above freezing, and a soft rain was falling. That year we didn’t see snow until a few days before Christmas and the whole winter season was milder than usual.

The coldest day of the year was the day my sister from Bermuda came to visit. The temperature that day was -25C. It must have been a shock for her! I had to lend her my long “yard-duty” coat that I had used when I was a teacher.

Last year, it didn’t snow until a few days before Christmas but Winter bit us in the derriere in March and April when we had several snow storms and the temperatures were frigid! It was very difficult and perfect strangers were talking to each other about how horrible the winter had been.

Not as bad as 2008, which set a record for the most snow EVER in one year in Ottawa.

This year, it has hit us early, and hit us hard, and while it has put us in the festive spirit and we do admit that it is beautiful, I fear we are in for another record-breaking year.

Today, December 11, 2013, it is -8C (17F). But when you factor in the wind speed, it feels like -16C (3F). Tonight it is going down to -19C (-2F) but the wind chill factor (which is a Canadian invention guaranteed to make us feel terrible (we are so cold) and wonderful (we are so tough) at the same time) will make it feel like -25C (-13F).

We went Christmas shopping today but were mostly inside so this afternoon we went for a walk on the Greenboro Trail. We took a few photos to prove how hardy we are.

And I admit – it was beautiful.

What do you think of my new WARM winter jacket?

What do you think of my new WARM winter jacket?

At 3 p.m. it was getting quite dark.

At 3 p.m. it was getting quite dark.

Two of my grandchildren built their first snowman of the season.

Two of my grandchildren built their first snowman of the season.

Over a week until the winter solstice and the sun is setting at 4:19.

Over a week until the winter solstice and the sun is setting at 4:19.

I fully expect my Bermuda sister to comment on this post telling us how “cold” it is there, but do not believe her. We have had this discussion before and I know winter in Ottawa blows her puny Bermuda winter right out of the water!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!  Stay warm.

Only in Canada, eh!

We are having a beautiful autumn here in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The weather for the past week and been warm and sunny and the changing colours are gorgeous. I have tried to get out for a walk or a bike ride every day. On today’s bike ride I told my husband that we have to memorize today and bring it back to mind when we have had twenty days in a row of below-freezing temperatures with high winds and blowing snow.

The Greenboro Trail today.

The Greenboro Trail today.

 

Did you know that one of my daughters works about a five-minute walk from my house? Today I walked over to meet her and we drove to a small mall nearby. The first store we went to was Mark’s. Now Mark’s used to be called Mark’s Work Warehouse. It was known for selling work clothes for men. Not suits and ties and silk shirts kind of workers. The kind of men who repair roads and climb hydro poles during Canada’s worst weather. The kind of men who dig and hammer and sweat and connect things and build bridges, and…

 

Well, Mark’s still sells work clothes but they also sell women’s clothes and I have to say their new fall line is gorgeous. We browsed and oohed and aahed. And then I spotted something I had never seen in any store anywhere in the world before. It took me by surprise and I had to take a photo of it.

 

Before I go on, you have to remember that today Ottawa is the warmest city in Canada at 26C (79F). It’s October. But Mark’s is ready for winter.

 

The Testing Room

The Testing Room

 

In the middle of the store was this full-sized Freezing Room, where you could step in to test the effectiveness of Mark’s winter clothing.

 

Only in Canada!!! Eh?

 

Thanks for reading. Have a great day!

 

Fifth Son – A Book Review

Fifth Son by Barbara Fradkin

Fifth Son by Barbara Fradkin

Among the books I read in 2012 were six books by Barbara Fradkin, a Canadian writer who was recommended to me by my daughter, Michelle.  Michelle is an avid reader who enjoys mysteries as much as I do.

Barbara Fradkin worked as a psychologist and has brought this knowledge to her mystery series, featuring Inspector Michael Green of the Ottawa Police Criminal Investigations Division.  Fifth Son is the fourth in the Inspector Green series.

A man has fallen to his death from the tower of a church in a rural village, part of the newly expanded city of Ottawa.  Did he jump or was he pushed?  Green is called in because the local police officers are not sure.

Green’s methodical questioning of the villagers and nearby farmers opens up a whole new area of the investigation.  It seems that a family of young men who had lived on a nearby farm may hold a secret so terrible that it is impacting this case years later.

Green’s teen-aged daughter, Hannah, who has recently come to live with him and his wife, reluctantly helps her father when she tells him that she knows one of the key witnesses, who is a special-needs student at the school where she volunteers.

Fradkin’s knowledge of the city of Ottawa and the surrounding area adds a note of authenticity to the characters and setting of the novel.  An example of this that I particularly enjoyed was her description of an apartment building in the Alta Vista area of Ottawa, “…which would have been tolerable had it been on the north side overlooking the grassy shoreline of the Rideau River.  Unfortunately, his miniscule apartment faced west over four lanes of Bank Street and the Billings Bridge Shopping Mall parking lot.”

This book was a great read, with lots of action, deft character descriptions, and a plot that pulls us in and carries us easily from the initial days of the investigation to the surprising conclusion of the mystery.

Barbara Fradkin has done it again. Her books have earned her a permanent place on my bookshelf.

I encourage you to pick up one of the Inspector Green Mysteries.  You won’t be sorry.

Thanks for reading. – Maureen

What a Difference a Year Makes

It is a year today since we moved from the Toronto area (Oshawa) to the city of Ottawa, our nation’s capital.

What a year it’s been.

The biggest pluses for me? We are living in the same city as two of our four daughters and we are only two hours away from another one. The fourth is across the country, living on the west coast, in Vancouver, so it is still a plane ride away.

We live very close to seven of our eight grandchildren, and despite the fact that I love my daughters, this one should have been first because I just can’t get enough of those sweet children.

We have been getting reacquainted with Ottawa as we lived her for two years, forty years ago. We are using the “free Wednesday” buses to explore a new area of the city every week.  The bicycle trails have become a constant and ever-changing source of joy and wonder to us as well. Just outside our front door we have the Greenboro Trail, filled with trees and flowers. I just can’t explain how we are amazed every time we walk or bike on this system of trails.

One of my three sisters lives just outside Ottawa and we see her frequently. Another sister moved here in March, from Vancouver. We took an art class together which we love and are taking another after Christmas. My fourth sister lives in Bermuda, which is a good thing! I also have three brothers who live in Ottawa and we see them often.

My cousin, Ninette, whom I grew up with and went to school with, lives here and I see her once a week. My friend from university, Colleen, lives here and we just reconnected after 47 years! What a joy!

All the activity means that I am getting healthier and I am 15 pounds less than when we moved here. Isn’t that amazing!

I can tell you that every morning I wake up and am so happy I can hardly believe it. I love our little house and I especially love my bedroom which is bright and sunny even on cloudy days! LOL. God has blessed me indeed!

Today we put up our mini Christmas tree and decorations. We are sitting by our (fake) fire and I am sipping tea made by my very attentive husband.  Does it get any better that this?

YES! Our daughter, Lindi, is coming from Vancouver for Christmas with Emil our grandson who turned 8 last week. It will be the first time we will all have been together for Christmas in at least 30 years. I can hardly wait. They are arriving on Tuesday.

Merry Christmas to all my blogger friends!

 

 

 

It’s My Move – Part 4 – The Final Day

Today is the last day in my old house.  We have lived here for twenty years and we are moving to Ottawa to be closer to family.

About a year ago we started downsizing.  We organized closets and found things to donate to charity.  But it was different!

A month ago we found a house we liked in Ottawa and the race was on.  We have gone through the entire three-bedroom house and have probably got rid of two-thirds of the contents.  We have been busy from early morning until late at night.  We didn’t take a day off, but we did take several mini-breaks a day.

Not even once did we become angry with each other and we worked like a well-trained team.  It was exciting! 

Our daughters (4 of them) are all thrilled for us.  Their children are looking forward to having Grandma and Grandpa living closer to them.

Yesterday I said good-bye to my dear friend, Roz.  She was my teaching partner (we both taught grade 4) and was always there for me.  She gave me good advice and several times was able to talk me through a tense situation.  I hope I was able to do the same for her. 

We went through the marriages of all of our daughters and the births of our grandchildren.  She is kind, funny, and down to earth.  I’ll miss her but I know she plans on visiting me soon.  Still, there were a few tears as we parted.

Today I said good-bye to my wonderful friend, Eleanor.  I taught with her husband and she taught at a school nearby.  We were art partners, taking watercolour classes together, and critiquing each other’s work.  We both managed to produce a few items that we framed and put on our walls. 

Every fall, we spent our Saturdays going to Church Bazaars.  We would enter raffles and buy used books and hand-sewn items.  She once found me the perfect little Christmas tree for just $3.00, including decorations and lights!  I once sold her sewing machine for $3.00 at a garage sale!  You don’t quickly forget moments like those.

We were tea drinking buddies.  We discussed everything from what was in the news, grandchildren, school happenings, husbands,  fashion, art, and especially books we’d read. 

Eleanor was born on a farm in Saskatchewan and her children are way out in Alberta.  Her husband is a computer nerd geek person like mine and we used to have Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners together. To say I’ll miss her would be an understatement.  I hope she comes to visit soon.  A few more tears were shed today when she left.

We are winding down.  The books are packed, the food in the freezer has been eaten, the shelves are bare, the bathrooms have been cleaned, the floors polished, the carpets vacuumed, the walls and ceilings dusted (really!), and we are finding we have already packed things we still need.  LOL.

So it is down to a few hours.  The movers are coming in the morning and we will drive to Ottawa tomorrow afternoon.  Our new adventure is just beginning as an old one comes to a close.

It’s My Move – Part 3

Every morning for the past month, I’ve woken up with a feeling that something good is happening.  Then I remember – we’re moving to Ottawa, to be closer to 3 of our 4 daughters.  One lives in Vancouver, but I figure with all the money I’ll save NOT visiting these three, I’ll be able to fly out to Vancouver more often.

We also have eight grandchildren and we’ll be living near seven of them.  It will be very different for us, and we are looking forward to the adventure.

Here’s what we’ve been doing for the last week.  We have made numerous visits to the Dump, where the guys who work there now greet us and we exchange pleasantries.  Did I tell you my husband owns/owned a gazillion books?  He has told the moving company he will be taking only 1,000 books with him and we have been donating the excess to the library and to local charities.

Today we drove by Value Village and he wanted to stop in for a quick look around.  I think he feels like he has visitation rights to those books and he wants to check up on them.  I let him go in by himself.  I think he’d like to be alone with them.

We went to The Moving Store and bought cardboard boxes and packing tape.  They have a showroom with displays set up of all the different boxes and what they are used for.  Book boxes, dishes, lamps, mirrors, paintings, clothing, and wardrobe boxes to name a few. 

Took them home, put them together, and started filling them.  Needless to say, tomorrow we have to go back to get some more boxes.  We have more magazines, etc. for recycling tomorrow and we are preparing for next week’s Large Garbage Pickup #2. 

Daughter #4 is coming next weekend to give us a hand and I’d like to have most of the house packed and ready to go.  Moving Day is only 10 days away and there’s still a lot to be done.

I’ve made a list of all the items still in the freezer and posted it on the fridge door.  As I use them, I check them off the list. I’m also cleaning as I go, so there’s not as much to do on the last day.

Hydro, water, gas have been notified of our moving date, and we’ve set up the same to be started at the other end.  On|December 16, Daughter #2 is driving up from Montreal to Ottawa to give us a hand with the unpacking.  She’ll arrive the day after we do.  It’s only a two-hour drive and we are looking forward to seeing her.  Her help will be welcome.

On Wednesday evening a couple of friends are hosting a dinner party for Hubby and me to say good-bye to all the friends we’ve made in our twenty years in Oshawa.  I know I’ll be crying but a few of us are already planning visits.

The weather is still holding out.  No snow yet and we are praying for good weather for the whole move.  After December 15, it would be nice to have a little snow!

Another busy week ahead, with so much to do.  I am so excited!!!

 

 

 

Another Beautiful Day

I am once again on the VIA Train, on my way home from Ottawa where I have been visiting family and looking for a house.  The sun is shining and it is warm (relatively) and pleasant. 

Most of the leaves are off the trees but there are some which are still brilliant with colour.  I love the reds, oranges, and yellows of fall.  Nature is so clever!

The car I am in is one of a new type for VIA Rail.  There are two seats on one side and a single on the other.  I have a single and it is very nice to be able to spread out my things –  netbook, cell phone, eReader.  I’ve spent the first two hours checking out the blogs I follow, commenting on them, and replying to my commenters.  VIA introduced Free WiFi a couple of years ago and it sure has made the time pass more quickly on all my back-and-forths from Oshawa to Ottawa!

We are just pulling in to Kingston and I should be home in less than two hours.  I’ll have to get some reading done somehow!

Have a good day and happy blogging!