Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mom, Don't Look Now But.....

Recently I discovered this photo taken on our drive north when we were moving to Canada from the US.

Here we are driving through Georgia on I-75. Ahead you will see our Budget moving truck. I spent days looking at the back of that truck, when I fell asleep at night I would still see it. 

There are many reasons I decided to move my family out of the US to Canada.

One thing that really bothered me was aggressive military recruitment of children in schools. Those who know me know I was an active counter-recruiter. An earlier blog entry “My 14 year old child was approached by a Military Recruiter during art class", (read here) was pretty much the last straw for me.

Passing me on the right is a rather interesting truck.  I was having a discussion with the kids on “why are we moving to Canada” again, and I told them that I really didn’t agree with aggressive military recruitment in schools to make good little soldiers. Middle boy said “Mom, don’t look now, but there is a military recruitment truck beside you”. Here was this truck with an ad for “join the Marines” and photos of the soldiers plastered all over it.

Well, it was definitely a sign!

Monday, December 27, 2010

We're back!

Photo courtesy of clipartguide.com
Just arrived back in Canada. Went to the US to see family for the holidays. US border guard was polite – wow! We weren’t sure what to expect after our last experience at the US border.

Oddly enough there was more snow in Southern Ohio than in Guelph. The kids were able to go sledding while we were in Ohio.

So...this is the first time we have been back to the States since we moved to Canada two months ago. We were watching the local news in Ohio, and in 1 day someone had been shot in the face in an attempt to steal a motorcycle, there had been a couple of murders, and a woman was abducted from the parking lot of a local shopping mall and sexually assaulted. We felt ill just listening to the news, so we shut it off. We asked a friend how they felt about all the violence on the news and he said “I’m not bothered, so long as it doesn’t happen to me or my family”.

In comparison Canadian news is often boring, but I don’t mind.

We did enjoy the stores. Americans are excellent marketers – you can have it fast, free shipping, there’s a huge selection and it’s often on sale! Sometimes the choice is overwhelming. We were looking for multi-vitamins in Meijers, and we counted approximately 40 feet of shelving in the vitamin section.

I do miss internet shopping, it hasn’t really caught on yet in Canada.

Eric got to use his new PR card at the border when we returned to Canada – Yay!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause

Just a bit of Floridian Christmas fun here with this ad for the Florida Keys.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Why are we in Afghanistan? Anyone? Anyone?

This video was made by an Afghan-American woman, and although it is about the US, it certainly applies to Canada in equal measure. Video courtesy of Afghans4peace.

Thanks to L-girl via http://wmtc.blogspot.com/ for posting.

There's only one thing missing: the real reasons for the continuing occupation of Afghanistan. No mention of oil, no mention of pipelines. No mention of strategic regional control of resources.

How many more people have to die because of this occupation?

I thought I was the only one who didn't get it.

Please share this video.

Another Dead Canadian

The attached clip is an earlier repatriation of 6 Canadian soldiers, shown from the viewpoint of someone riding in the procession. I think it's very moving.

Tip: Click on the bottom right hand corner to make the clip full screen size.

Last Saturday Cpl Steve Martin, aged just 24, was killed in Afghanistan. Today would have been his 25th birthday. He is the 154th Canadian soldier to die there. Today his casket was loaded on to a military plane in Kandahar for repatriation back to Canada. He will arrive back in Canada tomorrow.

His body will be flown to Trenton Canadian Air Force Base, in south eastern Ontario. From there the casket is loaded into a hearse, and the deceased’s family will join a grim procession that will head west along Hwy 401 to Toronto. This section of Hwy 401 has become known as the Highway of Heroes. The journey ends 2 hours later at the Ontario Coroner's office on Grenville Street in downtown Toronto.

Along the route Canadians turn out in all weather to show support and to watch the procession that no one ever wants to be a part of.

I always hope each repatriation to Canada will be the last.

Why are we in Afghanistan? Anyone? Anyone?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rocket ship car by day

Even an old carnival ride!

This rocket ship is an old carnival ride that has been dismantled, motorized, and is lit with colourful flashing lights. It sits about 12 people, plays holiday music, and used to go by my front door several times a night. It was always fun to catch a glimpse of, but difficult to take a good photo of.

Santa Cyclists

Here are the Santa Cyclists looking at the lights in our Florida neighbourhood and stopping for Hot Chocolate!

We would see them come by our house every year.

Florida Gators Christmas lights

This is one of our neighbours in our Florida neighbourhood during the annual Christmas light show our neighbourhood put on each year to collect money for Hospice. 

Note the alligators on the lawn and the Florida Gator colours of orange and blue.  

Christmas in Florida is different!

Photo: Another neighbours' home during the Christmas light show.

Part of the reason for this blog is to compare differences between our old life in Florida, and our new life in Canada.

When I first went to Florida for a vacation to spend Christmas with my snowbird parents, (quite a few years ago) I noticed that Christmas in Florida was different. It was Christmas Eve, I was swimming in an outdoor pool, there were Christmas lights everywhere, and holiday music playing. To my Canadian sensibilities, this was an odd combination, since I was used to Dec 24th being COLD!

Canadians would be surprised to know that many Floridians go all out decorating for the holidays. I suspect it is the lack of snow, or the fact that it is warm enough to be outside for long periods of time decorating.

So, if Floridians go all out decorating their homes for Christmas, add to this that the last neighbourhood we lived in was known as the “Christmas neighbourhood”. Back in 1993 a neighbour was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the neighbours decorated their homes even more than usual to give her a beautiful Christmas. Her grateful husband continued the tradition the following year and collected money for Hospice. Every year since then the people in Lake Park Estates go all out decorating for the holidays, and now The Lights of Lake Park Estates has become known as the place to go in Tampa Bay to see holiday lights. So far nearly $500,000 has been raised for hospice.

Many evenings we would sit out with our neighbours and watch the people go by. Lots of buses, cars, and a couple of hayrides for the kids. Local tv news vans would come by and interview neighbours. The Harley Santas, a cycling club with lit bikes, and a very odd rocket ship carnival ride that had been dismantled, motorized, lit with holiday lights and playing holiday music would go by several times a night. It seemed the world came by our front door. The downside was that the world came by our front door and traffic was so backed up, there was no chance of going to the supermarket for milk if you ran out.

When the children were very small they did not realize they lived somewhere “different”. Every evening after dinner we would head outside. When my eldest was about 5 he asked me “why does everyone come to our neighbourhood to see the lights, why don’t they just look at the lights in their own neighbourhood”. He didn’t realize then that our neighbourhood was different.

In our new neighbourhood we have very pretty lights, and this year we have the snow to compliment them. It is beautiful to walk around in the evening.

The odd thing is, we have become used to the traffic, so our new neighbourhood seems to us oddly quiet. That’s not a bad thing. After 12 years of traffic it’s just a new experience for us.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Diary of a Demented Snow Shoveler

Snowed in car Photo courtesy of Liz at Picasa Web CC.
December 8 6:00 PM
It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I took our cocktails and sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses print. So romantic we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!

December 9
We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I’ve ever had!
Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life!

December 12
The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment! My neighbor tells me not to worry- we’ll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we’ll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I’ll never want to see snow again. I don’t think that’s possible. Bob is such a nice man, I’m glad he’s our neighbor.

December 14
Snow, lovely snow! 8 inches last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn’t realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I’ll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish I wouldn’t huff and puff so.

December 15
20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4×4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife’s car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that’s silly. We aren’t in Alaska , after all.

December 16
Ice storm this morning. Fell on my ass on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like hell. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.

December 17
Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should’ve bought a wood stove, but won’t admit it to her. I hate it when she’s right. I can’t believe I’m freezing to death in my own living room.

December 20
Electricity is back on, but had another 14 inches of the damn stuff last night. More shoveling! Took all day. The damn snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they’re too busy playing hockey. I think they’re lying.
Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they’re out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they’re lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he’s lying.

December 22
Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white shit fell today, and it’s so cold, it probably won’t melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to piss. By the time I got undressed, pissed and dressed again. I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter, but he says he’s too busy. I think the jerk is lying.

December 23
Only 2 inches of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she, nuts?!! Why didn’t she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did but I think she’s lying.

December 24
6 inches – Snow packed so hard by snowplow, I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the son of a bitch who drives that snow plow, I’ll drag him through the snow by his balls and beat him to death with my broken shovel. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I’ve just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for the damn snowplow.

December 25
Merry xxxxing Christmas! 20 more inches of the damn slop tonight – Snowed in The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. God, I hate the snow!

Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she’s a fricking idiot. If I have to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ one more time, I’m going to stuff her into the microwave.

December 26
Still snowed in. Why the hell did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She’s really getting on my nerves.

December 27
Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze; plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him, he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.

December 28
Warmed up to above -20. Still snowed in. The WITCH is driving me crazy!!!

December 29
10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

December 30
Roof caved in. I beat up the snow plow driver, and now he is suing me for a million dollars, not only for the beating I gave him, but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel up his rear. The wife went home to her mother.  Nine more inches predicted.

December 31
I set fire to what’s left of the house. No more shoveling.

January 8
Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?

Monday, December 13, 2010

100 Words for Snow

Photo of snow plow at local school taken at 7.30am this morning. Still dark, and the days now are very short.
Legend says the Inuit have over 100 words for snow. Whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but the boys are learning that there are different types of snow.

We are having our first real snow fall. It started Saturday evening with a freezing rain.

Yesterday we had sleet all day. Not fun! When the temperature is hovering around freezing, you get a mixture of snow and ice. As the day progressed, it turned into a wet snow that resembled a proper snow on the surface, but was soggy underneath.

The boys had waited all day for some decent snow, and about 8:00 pm last night they could wait no longer and got their sleds to try the snow out. It was very pretty, Christmas lights, snow falling, street lights illuminating on the snow. There were my kids, the only ones, trying to sled down a slushy hill and going really really slow. Kids that have grown up in Canada know to wait for the better quality snow. You know, that powdery sort of snow that everyone loves. They had fun, and know that soon they will get better quality snow. Besides, you can always throw snowballs at Mom.

The first sound I heard this morning about 6:00 am was a scraping sound. I looked outside the window, and my street was a hive of activity with a little snow plow shovelling the sidewalk, and the salt men, and it was still snowing. The car was covered in a white blanket.

Last week everyone else got a lot of snow, Buffalo, and even London, which is 1 hour west of here. London got a couple of snow days. Kids are so excited to have their first snow day. Double bonus! You get the day off school, and you get to play in the snow all day – how wonderful is that!

I didn’t think the school board would cancel today, since this is only the 1st snowfall and I don’t think it’s that heavy.

We checked the school board website anyway and the site said “decision pending” check back at 6:30. When we checked back the site said there would be school today, so, no luck yet kids.

Temperature is -11C (12F), but with a wind chill it feels like -23C (-9F).
Florida comparison, today 7C (42F) and cloudy so it’s not warm there today either.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Toronto City Hall rink at night

Photo courtesy Toronto Star

The skating rink at Toronto City Hall looks very pretty at night. We didn't stay late enough yesterday to skate at night, but will probably go back. There are lots of rinks open and floodlit at night where we can skate, often at no charge.

Our brand new ice skates

This is a photo of the fountain at Toronto City Hall which doubles as a skating rink in the winter.

Ok: History alert! Toronto has 2 city halls that are side by side. "Old" city hall and "new" city hall. In the photo you can see "old city hall" which is a beautiful piece of gothic architecture (complete with gargoyles). In 1965 "new city hall" was built next door, and is the current city hall and houses this fountain/skating rink. "New" city hall, as you can see by the rink, is very modern in style.

Toronto is only just under an hour drive from home. Yesterday we took the children with their new skates to the rink. They have only been skating a couple of times, so they don't skate very well, and are intimidated by toddlers whizzing by them skating backwards. Many Canadians learn to skate almost as soon as they walk. Even the man who sold us the skates at Canadian Tire told the kids he got his first pair of skates at age 2!

I told the kids the only way to learn is to get on the ice and go. They had fun, and nobody fell down - which for us is good. Skating at this rink is free.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Fun in Florida

Sometimes I like to compare our previous life in a sub-tropical climate to our new life in a colder climate.

Floridians go all out decorating for the holidays. All around the state there are Holiday boat parades. This Friday is the 25th annual St Petersburg Boat Parade. What Floridians lack in snowy weather, they make up with lots and lots of decorations. It’s fun. December evenings are usually cool, (still much warmer than Ontario) and there is hot chocolate on hand. It’s a different type of holiday season to “up north”.

For those of us on land watching the boats, the trees are lit, and there is even a little snow bank made from artificial snow for the local kids to play in. Many Floridian kids have never seen snow and are fascinated with it.

My boys saw snow for the first time once just a few years ago, so winter in Canada is very exciting for them.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do You Like Hockey

It wouldn't be Canada without a little impromptu hockey from time to time. This game took place last weekend with some local university students on the parking lot of a local school.

Alas, the snow has since melted, and we are basking in a sweltering 35F.

I'm certain more snow is on the way soon.