Friday, April 29, 2005

Sod It!

I can't believe it. It's snowing. It's been snowing for about 24 hours, and the ground is covered with a fine blanket of whiteness. It's like I slept through Summer, and it's November again or something.

Jim and I have the weekend off, and we were going to start the first bit of our deck project: we need to rent a sod-cutter and take away the grass from part of our yard so we can put gravel under the deck. I also want to remove the grass from the last third of our yard so Sprout and I can garden this Summer. But with snow on the ground, I think we're going to have to amuse ourselves differently. Unless we want to make an igloo...

I think that if I get my hands on a sod-cutter, it's going to be TOO MUCH FUN - sort of how I feel when I get my hands on a Sausal. Cut it! Cut it all! De-turf the whole yard! De-turf the neighbour's yard! Yay! "This is the police. Put the turf-cutter down, Ma'am. Put it down now." "I caaaaan't!!! I don' wannnaaaaa!!!!"

Jim is putting me through deck-building school, so I can check all his math. I'm starting to realize how many details there are to think about, and why he spends every evening on the back porch building decks in his head. We have decided to bite the bullet and build the decking out of cedar.

We were going to do the whole deck and whole fence out of treated lumber (substantially cheaper), but someone gave us a bunch of info on the carcinogenic properties of treated lumber (e.g. active ingredient, arsenic!). I can't bear to think about the Sprout crawling around on treated lumber now, not to mention myself. We're still going to do the fence and the underneath deck supports out of treated wood, but anything that Sprout can crawl on will be safe. And cedar smells so good, which is a perk.

But we ain't starting anything this weekend, that's for sure.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Frieda Sighting!

I should be used to it by now, but I'm always staggered at how often Aunt Frieda manages to get herself into the spotlight. Today, one of my colleagues greeted me with a sing-song, "Gwe-en, there's someone you know in the newspaper today!" And indeed, on page A8 of the Star Phoenix, there's a photo of Aunt Frieda in her car.

Being part-shaman as she is, Frieda likes to decorate her car with bumper stickers, rosaries, stuffed animals, rocks, plastic statues of the Virgin Mary, etc. The detail that caught the photographer's attention this time was the plume of tiny ribbons attached to her antenna. "She says the ribbons on her car antenna don't mean she's adopted any particular cause. They just make it easier to find the car in a parking lot," reads the photo caption.

How do the Aunt Friedas of the world get more than their 15 minutes of fame??

A few years ago, Jim and I were working on a news project, and I ran down to the Library's newspaper storage area to get a couple of recent issues. I randomly opened a copy of the Western Producer, and there in big print was a quote from - who else - Aunt Frieda. The article was on farm women, and Frieda was spouting off about the trials of being a farm wife - okay, Frieda lived in a small town, but she never lived on a farm. Her income was based on services, not agriculture. Her water came from the town supply (e.g. clear, with water pressure), and not from a well. Farm woman. Gimme a break. And yet, there she was, in print.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tales from Small-Town Saskatchewan: Ass Wednesday

My Aunt Frieda is very Catholic, and the folks around town do like to tease the Church Ladies sometimes. For the purposes of this story, I must also remind you that Aunt Frieda is also a pyromaniac of sorts.

A few years ago, she was travelling back home from Speedy Creek on the bus, and the bus driver (also from our town) asked her, "So, are you going to go see the strippers in the Mendtam Bar?" (Small-town bars will occasionally bring in strippers for a one-night show to make some money).

"Strippers in the Mendtam Bar?? During Holy Week??!??", she squeaked with horror.

"Yeah," he said, "They're calling it 'Ass Wednesday'."

I heard about this on the phone a few weeks later. Aunt Frieda likes to be scandalized by shocking behaviour, and then likes to tell about it over and over again, with relish. This was my favourite part of our phone conversation:

Aunt Frieda thundered, with tones of the apocalypse, "And then a few days later, the Mendtam Bar BURNED TO THE GROUND." Ah, the smugness of the Church Lady.

That's my Aunt Frieda.

Another Charming Saskatchewan Blog

My neighbour down the back alley is an amazing cook (and, small world, her husband is the cabinet maker who built our beautiful kitchen), and she just started her own blog called Home for Dinner.

She has this plan to buy and eat only locally-grown food for a year, and blog about her experience. It's such a great idea. I'm already inspired by reading it - I have to make my own basil ice cubes!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Invisible Squirrel

Library Squirrel has disappeared! This is a test post to see if publishing will remove the cloak of darkness.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


What are sisters for, if not to flog you verbally about not blogging often enough? (Non sequitur: I almost said "to verbally flog" in that sentence, a split infinitive that suggests that, indeed, I am not writing often enough and my grammar is suffering). Thank you for the nudge, Schwester.

I work tonight, and so it is my morning off. Once a week, when this happens, I take Sprout over to daycare and come back to clean my house. It is my tiny bit of alone time, where I can pretend I am unencumbered by the grown-up responsibilities of having a child. Part of me vaguely remembers sleeping in on my morning off, but those days are long gone. I must content myself with lazy newspaper-reading, interspersed with high-speed vacuum sports and laundry hauls.

I'm having memory/spelling problems this morning - just had to pop out of here and assure myself that I can spell both 'sequitur' and 'vacuum'. Stumbled across the website for the "American Vacuum Society" while I was there, which made me giggle. ('When we get together for a conference, we REALLY suck.')(Okay, it didn't actually say that.)

This squirrel is scampering from tree to tree at a fast pace. I taught 'Microsoft Word for Beginners' on Monday, for the first time with my colleague. It was exhausting, mostly because Word 2000 has that annoying feature where it hides some of the toolbar icons from you. We hadn't anticipated this, and so every workstation in the lab had a different set of icons on the toolbar! If I said, "Okay, now we're going to cut and paste this word somewhere else," then half the people would have the scissors icon in front of them, and half would have to be shown how to find it in the hidden menu. Grrr. The class booked full in half an hour on the first day of registration, so we're going to offer it again in the Fall, but we're going to do some serious revision of our training plan before then.

Tuesday, I taught the second half of "Absolute Beginners for Seniors" (I love teaching that class - the people who take it are so great), and then I spent the afternoon in a staff training seminar, leaving me minutes here and there to keep my workload moving. We are in the phase of submitting proposals for new furniture, so I am shopping in furniture catalogues for shelving to meet our needs and to get a price quote. I enjoy small projects like this; who knows why. Perhaps because they are small, finite projects, and I can feel satisfied at the end of a few days because I got something completed.

Jim and his colleague just performed the first staging of their program yesterday. They have been working on this program for weeks. When the Children's Department here develops a program, they go all out. They make their own sets, they make their own puppets, they use spotlights and black lights, they wear microphones. It's amazing. I don't know who raised the bar on performance to this level at our Library, but childrens' programming here is one of our shining stars. Few other libraries even touch what happens here. Because of the creative elements in his work, Jim loves his job. He can work in the Library and still use his professional art training. For a few years, I tried to talk him into going to library school so I could live in Vancouver or Montreal for a time, but this job is so perfect for him that he'd probably never get anything that rewarding at a librarian level. And job satisfaction is what it's all about, right?

I'm enjoying my own job a lot. Many people are retiring these days, and there are job opportunities popping up everywhere, but I haven't finished having all the fun I can have in this job yet, so I don't think I'm going anywhere.

Our big plan for the Summer, as Bean mentioned in her nudge, is that we're working on a fence and deck in the backyard. We don't have a fence to speak of, and there is a friendly but BIG pit bull who lives next door. He could possibly eat my child, so we really need a fence. Jim is so funny when he gets started on a project like this. We're scheduled to build in late June, but every night even now he sits on the back porch smoking cigarettes and building decks in his head. By the time we actually pick up the tools, he should know where every bolt goes.

I am going to sign off - I have to do that mad vacuuming before I take my bath and become a grown-up. I can't compete with tiny wooden tables that look like jewels, but I hope that this blog gives you some reading pleasure, Celine-Bean.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Tales from Small-Town Saskatchewan: The Pope

The day after the Pope died, Jim asked me, "You're a Catholic, how do you feel about it?" I responded pragmatically, 'he was very old and sick,' 'he did great things, but everybody dies,' etc. But then, the next morning, I found myself weeping emotionally after reading a glowing tribute to him in the newspaper.

It reminded me of when we were teenagers, and one of my sister's friends told us about visiting her grandmother in Fox Valley. She was watching the Pope on T.V. when they got there, with tears in her eyes. When they asked her why she was crying, Grandma said with her Hungarian accent, "Eet ees so good to be Catoleek!"

I think he had an emotional effect on many of us, whether we struggle with change within the Church or not.

Friday, April 01, 2005

How to Say It Like You Live Here

When I moved to Halifax for two years of library school in the mid-nineties, I got a bit homesick for the vast Saskatchewan prairie and its culture. Who knows why you'd miss anywhere else, when you live in a beautiful city like Halifax, but there you go. Squirrels are, well, different.

This homesickness attuned me to Saskatchewan details. I could spot the Saskatchewan government emblem from 15 yards away, and I could immediately identify a Saskatchewan native by how they pronounced the word 'Saskatchewan'.

It looks like a four-syllable word, right? Well it is, kind of. It's really more a slurry of consonants that comes out to about 3 1/2 syllables. Here's how it sounds phonetically:


or, if you're in an even bigger hurry,


Ahh, yes, that's it. You can see how hearing "Sas-kaaa-choo-waaan" from someone might be jarring to subtle and sensitive prairie ears. All those unnecessary "aahs" and "oohs", when a simple schwa would do.

Say it with me, folks, "Saskatchewan". Ahh, yes.