Monday, November 30, 2009

The Bushy-Tailed Pests

By mid-October, most of the birds that were hanging around the backyard had left for warmer regions, so we took down all the feeders hanging from the trees and stored them in the shed. But because there are some birds that stick around through the winter, we decided to hang one bird feeder and one peanut feeder from poles that we attached to our deck. This way, we could enjoy some feathery visits from our kitchen window, and our winged friends could find something to eat during the harshest days of winter.

Cool idea, right? And it really is, except for these bushy-tailed pests that have moved in and taken over:

What frustrates me the most is that I can hear the chickadees and the blue jays and the cardinals chirping in the trees nearby, so I know they want to stop by our feeders for a snack. But can they? Nooooo. Because the bushy-tailed pests literally wrap themselves around whatever food is available.

Obviously I have to come up with some type of solution to this problem so that we can enjoy a visit from some of the birds in the area searching for food, which can be scarce this time of year. It’s been a battle of wits since the summer with the squirrels where bird feeders are concerned. And so far they’ve won every time. I have to admit that I admire their tenacity and their ingenuity; no matter what type of squirrel deterrent we conjure up, they manage to overcome it.

Pesky critters.

And their attempt to make me feel sorry for them by saying “please don’t be mean to us; all we want is some food because we’re so hungry” isn’t working. I mean, look at the size of these things. If you ask me, they should be jogging on a treadmill, not wrapping themselves around a peanut feeder.

Darn those squirrels... ARGH!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Bucket List

A couple of years ago, my husband and I went to see the comedy ‘The Bucket List’, starring Jack Nicholson (a grumpy millionaire) and Morgan Freeman (an intellectual mechanic). It’s a movie about two terminally ill men sharing a room in the cancer ward, both of which have been given about a year to live. At first they don’t care much for one another, but eventually they become friends (you know this is inevitable since these two men are the main characters in the movie). So when they finally kind of like each other they each compose a bucket list – things to do before you ‘kick the bucket’ – and head off to an around the world adventure to fulfill each wish (funded by the grumpy millionaire).

It wasn’t the most realistic movie in terms of the disease, since anyone who has been very sick (or knows someone who has been very sick) will tell you that getting through each day with the emotions, the symptoms and the treatments that go with cancer is difficult enough, never mind having the abundance of energy required to fly around the world, climb a mountain or skydive. But ‘The Bucket List’ is a movie. And it’s fictional. And on top of that it’s a comedy, so it doesn’t have to be realistic. Because if it was realistic, it would certainly not be a comedy since it would be depressing.

But I digress. As usual.

Getting back to the point of this post, what I wanted to say is that as we were driving home after the movie, my husband and I got to talking about what our own ‘bucket lists’ would consist of. I mean, what are some of the things we’d like to do before we die? Not that we’ll actually do all of them, especially the ones that require what we don’t have much of: money. But it doesn’t cost anything to dream, so why not make a list just for the fun of it. And not everything on the list is unattainable, so who knows what the future may hold.

At first I thought about listing very unusual things, like reading people’s thoughts or moving objects with my mind (telekinesis) or being able to see ghosts or time traveling. You know, abnormal and interesting things. But since life is much too short and I don’t see anything in the works for time traveling, I decided to concentrate my efforts on things that I may be able to experience in my lifetime.

Here is my list:

1) See Some Of The World

...or most of it...

There’s no doubt about it, I love traveling. I wish I had more time and definitely more – much, much more – money to see as much of the world as possible. Some of the places I’d want to visit are:
AustraliaNew ZealandFiji
TahitiBora BoraCook Islands
IrelandItalyThe Netherlands
SwedenSwitzerlandUnited Kingdom
Vatican CityThailandIndia
British Virgin IslandsSaint LuciaCayman Islands
Turks and CaicosUS Virgin IslandsBermuda
Cayman IslandsSouth AfricaEgypt

States in the US: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

Canadian Provinces: British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Alberta

A little bit of an ambitious list, don’t you think? I probably could name a few more places but let’s see how much of this I can fulfill before I kick the bucket. I’d be happy if I could get to visit 10% of what I’ve included above.

2) Walk Through A Desert

Okay, maybe not through an entire desert, which is a little extreme. But I’d certainly like to see one up close, dig my feet through the sand and maybe even – what the heck - ride on a camel.

3) Go On A Safari

I get excited just at the thought of going on a safari to observe and photograph big game and other wildlife. This would be a super cool experience.

4) See Gorillas In The Wild

I’d love to plan a trip to Africa to see the mountain gorillas, the largest and rarest of the species. These gorillas have thick black hair, large jaws and teeth, and the males can grow to 6 feet tall. This would be an amazing experience!

5) Jury Duty

This may not seem like the most glamorous thing to add to a bucket list but I’d really like to experience jury duty. But not just any type. I want it to be a notorious case, one that everyone is talking about. I want a lot of courtroom drama, interesting witnesses and exciting evidence. Of course, I wouldn’t want it to last too long (I do have a life, you know) and I wouldn’t want it to be a gory type case where I’d have to see really disturbing evidence that would totally freak me out. I’m being a little picky, I know, but it is my list and I can add whatever I want to it.

6) Meet Some Of My Favourite Writers

Since I am such a voracious reader, it would be really exciting to meet some writers whose books I’ve read, such as John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Nicholas Sparks, Anne Rice, Mary Higgins Clark, Joy Fielding, Wally Lamb, Janet Evanovich, Jeffrey Archer, Robin Cook and James Siegel, just to name a few. And if each writer would show up with a copy for me of all the books they’ve ever written when we’d meet, well, that would be nice.

7) Build A Pond In My Backyard

Okay, this is probably the first thing so far on this list that is possible to do both from a time and financial perspective. It’s fairly affordable and not too difficult to build, especially when you have as handy a husband as I do. We have discussed adding a pond to our backyard, but only after we’ve taken care of certain priorities around the home. This may happen one day, although not for awhile.

8) Publish A Magazine Article

I don’t see myself ever sitting down to write a novel since I just don’t have the discipline for it, but I do see myself pursuing some type of writing, with magazine articles being at the top of the list. Perhaps I’ll look into this at some point.

9) Add A Solarium To My Home

This is a little more expensive than the pond, but certainly something I’d love added to our home. I can just imagine how wonderful it would be to sit in a room surrounded by glass and an assortment of houseplant that would thrive in a room with abundant light. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to this project – mostly because of the financial expense – but one can certainly dream about it.

10) Adopt A Child

This is the big one, and something that’s been on my mind since my early adult years. I have a blessed life and would love to share all this with a child (maybe even 2 or 3) starving for a home and a family, something no child should ever be deprived of. I never got around to this earlier in my life because my first marriage (husband included) was not exactly what you’d want to write home about. But my second marriage (and definitely the husband included) is a match made in heaven. Sharing what we have with children that are searching for the type of love and stability we have to offer would surely be one of my greatest accomplishments in life. This is something that is attainable and definitely worth pursuing.

Okay, so there you have it. My list is not as extraordinary as some that I’ve seen on the internet, but it suits me. There are other things I’ve thought of like swimming with dolphins, whale watching, camping, horseback riding, learning to play an instrument, volunteering in an old age home, volunteering in a women’s shelter; some easily attainable, some less so. Hopefully I’ll get to experience some of the things I’ve included above. We’ll see.

So, what’s on your bucket list?

Photo from SXC

Friday, November 27, 2009

What In The World Is A Ferret?

It’s Friday folks. Do you know what that means?

“It’s the weekend?”

No, it’s ferrety Friday!

“Ferrety Friday? What the heck is that?”

It’s the day of the week that I dedicate to writing about ferrets, so my readers can become better informed about these absolutely adorable creatures. As many of you know, my daughter has a pet ferret by the name of Bailey who joined our family about 3 months ago. Since Bailey’s arrival, I’ve learned a lot about these unusual yet adorable animals that I would like to share with my readers. This means you.

“Lucky me...” [yawn]

Oh, cut it out!

Okay, dear readers (anybody there?), today’s post will introduce this furry critter because I suspect there’s a collective question of: “What in the world is a ferret?”

Shall we?

First of all, ferrets are not rodents in any way, shape or form, and they are in no way related to rodents. They are small, carnivorous mammals belonging to the Mustelidae family, which includes weasels, polecats, ferrets, minks, fishers, otters, badgers, wolverines, stoats, martens, tayras and grisons (most of which I have no clue what they are)

Photo from MorgueFile

Second, there are two types of animals that go by the name of ferret: 1) black-footed ferrets and 2) domestic ferrets.

Although the black-footed ferrets and the domestic ferrets look very similar and are in fact distant cousins (same genus but different subgenus and species), the two are poles apart. The black-footed ferrets, which are an endangered species, may look just as cute and cuddly as the domestic ferrets, but they will easily bite off a finger if you try to pick them up and kiss their little noses and scratch their little heads and tickle their little toes like you would with domestic ferrets. The reason for this is that the black-footed ferrets live in the wild, not in your home. Don’t attempt to play with these animals, kids, they’re wild. And I don’t mean party type wild but teeth-chopping-off-fingers wild.

On the other hand, domestic ferrets are adorable little balls of fur that you see in pet shops. They are the ones whose pictures you see splattered all over the internet; pictures of them playing, pictures of them acting like clowns, pictures of their little noses being kissed, their little heads being scratched and their little toes being tickled by ferret-obsessed pet owners (like me). These are not wild ferrets; on the contrary, they are sweet, good-natured – extremely domesticated - little creatures that bond strongly with humans and others creatures (like a cat or dog that they may share a home with).

In fact, they are so domesticated that they cannot survive out in the wild. They don’t know how to hunt for food, search for water or find shelter. Domestic ferrets released into the wild will most likely die. They’ve been tame for so long that they have lost their natural instincts and depend on us for all their needs. Also, because their instincts are not fully developed, they don’t have a natural fear of humans or other animals.

“How could this be? Ferrets haven’t been pets for that long. Or around humans for that matter”

Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong.

After a substantial amount of research, I learned that domestic ferrets have been domesticated from the European polecat ferret (mustela putorius furo ) since ancient times (even before the cat ), most likely by the Egyptians. Domesticated ferrets were once working animals, used for hunting rabbits and for controlling pests, such as rodent extermination. They’ve also been used (and apparently still are in the U.K.) to rid barns of rodents, and even used on ships during the eighteenth century to help control the rodents that were so prevalent onboard.

Furthermore, because of their popularity as “vermin exterminators”, ferrets were being imported by the tens of thousands in the United States by the early 1900s to be used to destroy rabbits, raccoons, gophers, rats and mice, and to protect barns, warehouses and granaries from these pests. This was such an accepted practice that the USDA promoted the use of ferrets for rodent control. So if your farm was infested by some pesky critter, you could call the ferret meister to come and release ferrets on your property.

(I’m not making this up. Unless I’ve run across some bogus information during my research, I’d say this is pretty interesting – and quite amusing. My little Bailey might have ancestors that were, you know, “verminators”. Yuk, yuk, yuk...sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Anyway, rodenticides eventually became available and the – here I go again - “verminators” were out of a job. Sure, why not replace natural extermination with poisonous chemicals?).

“So what’s going on with ferrets now?”

Well now they’re just kept indoors as pets.

“What are they like?”

They are extremely friendly and often very cuddly; they make excellent pets. Other words that define domestic ferrets include: curious, docile, enterprising, intelligent, persistent, playful, fastidious, energetic (when they’re awake) and highly entertaining (downright clownish). They crave human interaction and form strong bonds with their owners. They also become very attached to other ferrets that they may share a home (and often cage) with. They can be trained to do tricks, to use a litter box and to come when called. But although they are in between a dog and a cat, similar to both of these popular pets in many ways, they are unique in their own special way and have their own special needs.

“They sound kind of neat”

They are.

“What else can you tell me about them?”

Well, well, well...look who’s suddenly interested in my ferrety information. You’re just going to have to wait until the next ‘Ferrety Friday’ for more information about these unique little critters.

Until then, Bailey says:

Oh, did I mention they sleep a lot? We’ll get to that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Garter Sssssnakes...

The first time I saw a snake in my backyard, I froze in place and thought to myself: “This is either a worm on steroids or a snake...” I’ve already written about that experience in a previous post, so I won’t bother you all with it again.


What I failed to mention in that post is that I had no idea at the time what type of snake I’d encountered. After all, having lived in a big city until recently, on a second floor apartment, with no outdoor garden to putter around in, I didn’t have that many opportunities to run into that type of snake. Or any type of snake, for that matter. Which, now that I think about it, isn’t such a bad thing.


So all that to say that the first time I saw a snake in the backyard of my home was the first time I’d ever seen a snake. Any snake. And even though I didn’t know what type it was, the first thing that came to mind is that it ‘must be some kind of garden snake’. Because on some dilapidated shelf in the back of my (also at times dilapidated) mind, in a dust-covered, mold-laden box labeled ‘trivia that will probably prove to be totally useless’ I found something about it being normal to occasionally find snakes in the garden, typically referred to as garden snakes. This made me happy. Not the knowing-about-the-snake part – yes that made me happy too - but that all those hours of my life wasted on collecting worthless information finally paid off. So yay for that.

Watch out trivial pursuit opponents!

Another thing that I want you all to know is that I wasn’t frightened that day, since I’m not particularly bothered by snakes. Well, maybe if I suddenly found myself standing a couple of feet away from a rattlesnake or a cobra or a python, it would be scary. And terminal. But a cute, harmless, itsy bitsy snake like a garter? Pffft. Puh-lease.

“Oh come on, Water Roots lady. You expect us to believe that half-baked story? Aren’t you the one that runs away screaming when you find a millipede in the house? And yet here you are telling us that you’re not intimidated by this ‘itsy bitsy’ snake?”


Okay, the experience was a little alarming. But certainly not frightening. In fact, it was more exciting than anything else.

“Exciting? That’s the highlight of your day? Seeing a snake in the garden? Wow, do you live an interesting life or what?”


Alright, enough already...crazy voice in my head. Let’s move on.


Being someone with an insatiable appetite for information, after I identified the ‘worm on steroids’, I needed to learn a little something about garter snakes. Here’s what I discovered:

- Garter snakes are the most widely distributed snakes in North America. They can be found throughout the continent, except in the dry southwestern states.

- They are called garter snakes because the patterning on their sides resembles that of garters once warn by men to hold up their socks. (I have no idea what men’s sock garters look like, so, you know, shrug)

Photo from SXC

- Garter snakes give birth to live young. Anywhere from 3 to 80 baby snakes are born in a single litter. (Can you imagine giving birth to 80 babies? Ack!) On average, though, litters usually consist of between 20 to 40 babies. (Still fairly high number of births, if you ask me)

- When they are born, baby garters are about 12.5 to 23 cm (4.9 to 9 inches) long.

- The babies are independent upon birth. (Talk about leaving the nest early. And they never return; unlike human babies that move back home when they’re like, I don’t know, about 35 or so)

Photo from SXC

- The first reaction of these snakes when faced with a predator (this means you) is to hide, so most of the time you won’t even know that these reptiles are in your garden. (This is probably a huge blessing for people that are terrified of them)

- Garter snakes are carnivorous, meaning they eat meat. Their diet consists of anything moving that they can overpower; this includes mosquito larvae, leeches, spiders, slugs, snails, crickets, lizards, rats, mice, voles, various other insects, other snakes that may be poisonous, birds, bird eggs, earthworms, frogs and even fish (if living near the water). Food is swallowed whole. (No chewing thoroughly for these critters)

- Garter snakes prove beneficial to the garden by eating a number of detrimental pests, but they’re also an important source of food for a number of birds and mammals. (The food chain, folks)

Photo from SXC

- If backed into a corner, garter snakes will try to scare their predator away through a show of temper. If picked up, they will release a foul-smelling liquid as a form of defense and attempt to bite their captor. But generally speaking, these snakes are not aggressive and they will more often than not try to hide or run away rather than confront the ‘enemy’.

- Although recent discoveries have revealed that garter snakes do produce venom, the amount is very mild making it quite harmless to humans. A bite may cause mild swelling and some itching, but not much else.

- Garter snakes hibernate from late October to about early April. (Something I wouldn’t mind doing – on a tropical island, of course)

- Because of the similarities in sound, garter snakes are also called garden snakes, gardener snakes, garder snakes, guarder snakes and gardner snakes. (I personally have always referred to them as ‘garden’ snakes)

My Photo – Taken On A Recent Walk

I think that’s pretty much enough data about a snake that most of you who have gardens have encountered at some point (and most of you honestly don’t really care about, right?). And why do I bother learning all this information, you ask? Well, aside from the fact that I have a very inquisitive mind and enjoy learning new things, I also find that the more I am informed, the more I understand what I can expect and what I’m dealing with. In this case, I’ve learned that these abundant little snakes are basically harmless to humans while being quite beneficial in the garden. They’re the good guys.

And just for the record, I do not run away screaming when I see millipedes.


Monday, November 23, 2009

How Is The Amaryllis Plant Doing?

My recently-purchased amaryllis is doing just fine, thank you for asking. In its primo spot in my brightly-lit kitchen, it’s growing like a weed. My only concern is that it’s growing too quickly and that the flower display (much too short if you ask me) will end before the holidays arrive. And although I was hoping that the blooms would open close to Christmas or the New Year, the amaryllis has a mind of its own. It does not respond to threats, pleas or bribery (yes, I’ve tried). It will bloom when it feels like it, like it or lump it. So [sigh] I’m going to get flowers whenever it wants to give them to me.

This is where my plant is at right now:

Me: “I’ll clean your leaves regularly and give you extra fertilizer in the spring, my dear amaryllis, if you promise to bloom near Christmas”

Amaryllis: “Trying to bribe me, lady? I can’t be bought. Try the Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs; they’re pretty self-absorbed and can be bought.”


Me: "AHHHH! A talking amaryllis..."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Alive And Well

Yes, dear readers, I’m alive and well. I haven’t left town. I haven’t had trouble with my computer. And I don’t have one (or both) of my hands in a cast, which would keep me from typing. There is absolutely nothing keeping me from writing for my blog aside from lack of interest and lack of motivation. Maybe even lack of imagination, although I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I do have a number of posts that I’ve started but haven’t finished. Hopefully this week I can polish them up and add them to my blog.

While the garden sleeps, and while many of my winged and wingless backyard critters are away in warmer regions or hibernating till the spring, I’ll be writing about other things to keep this blog alive. These other things will include just about anything: recipes, book reviews, indoor plants, trivia, humour and so on; a real mixed bag.

I’m also considering dedicating a few days of the week to specific topics. For example, seeing as people don’t know much about ferrets, I may dedicate one day of the week to sharing information about these unique and unusual animals. I think Friday might be a good day for that; I could even name it ‘Ferrety Friday’.

And how about ‘Silly Sunday’? A day dedicated to humour, be it knock-knock jokes or funny pics. Or ‘Tuesday’s Trivia’? A day that will include posts with information about a specific animal or flower or garden tool or insect or some such thing. I’ve even thought about ‘Wacky Wednesday’, a day where I could add weird posts consisting of unusual stories and events that I could find on the internet and share with my readers.

These are some of the things I’ve been considering for my blog. All these ideas are still up in the air with the exception of ‘Ferrety Friday’ that I’m quite serious about. It would be nice to share information about sweet, lovable ferrets that most people know nothing about; animals that are commonly misunderstood and often mistreated.

Anyway, so that’s pretty much what I’ve been pondering about my blog lately. Since I’m someone with a variety of interests, my posts should reflect that.

What does everyone think?

Oh, Bailey...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Blog Look

So I decided I needed some change in my life, and rather than abandon my children, dump my husband, empty our savings account and run away to a tropical island where I can lie on the beach in glorious weather (and where there are no piles of laundry to be done, meals to be prepared, rooms to be cleaned, dishes to be washed, toilets to be scrubbed, ferrets to be cared for (I still love you Bailey!), gardens to be maintained and houseplants to be watered, fed and groomed, I would simply change the look of my blog.


Whoa there. Let’s rewind for a second and take a closer look at what I just said.

Tropical island?
Glorious weather?
No household chores?

[ where did I put my passport?]

Meh. Who am I kidding? My savings wouldn’t get me past the plane ride. So changing the blog name it is.

I might even change the name of my blog eventually. I mean, since it’s not just about plants and plant-related stuff perhaps I should use a name that’s more appropriate, a name that fits the ‘any-topic-that-comes-to-mind theme’ of this blog. And a name that fits my personality. No, I will not be adding the word wacky or weird to the title, thank you very much. Although unstable and unhinged are being considered.

Let’s ask the panel of experts what they think about all this?

Jeez, you guys haven’t been any help at all. All you’ve done is clown around. Maybe I should ask the insects for their opinions instead. They’d probably be more helpful.

[sigh] Maybe not...

(all pictures above are my own)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Day Of Remembrance: Lest We Forget

“None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free”
- Pearl S. Buck -

I am fortunate enough to have spent my entire life in a peaceful, free society. I have never experienced war personally. I have never witnessed it with my own eyes. I’ve never had to worry about surviving another day, about whether my father would be whisked away in the middle of the night by ‘the enemy’. Of bombs landing in my city and killing someone I love. Of having my home invaded by enemy soldiers. Of losing my freedom, my home, my life. I have, thankfully, lived a happy, secure life that I try to remind myself each day to never take for granted.

My parents, on the other hand, experienced quite a different world in their early years; they lived in the midst of World War II, a war that engaged the majority of the world’s nations, including the most powerful of them. Approximately 60 million people perished during those years, 40 million of which were civilians that mostly died from diseases, starvation, massacres, bombings and genocide. Although both my mother and father spent most of their adult years in the safety of Canada, having arrived here in the late 50s from Greece as young adults, some of their earliest memories were built in a war-torn, economically and emotionally bankrupt country that was ravaged by a world war and a subsequent civil war.

My father was 11 years old when the Italian army invaded Greece on the 28th day of October in 1940, which forced the country to enter World War II. My mother was only 5. Despite having a much smaller (but obviously determined) army, Greece defeated Mussolini’s forces and drove the invading army back into Albania where it originated from. However, despite the courage and tenacity of the Greek army, it did not spare the country from being occupied, because in April of 1941, Hitler sent some of his own troops to join forces with Italy and overcome Greece. These two armies were joined by the Bulgarian army, a brutal occupier whose policy was that of extermination or expulsion. They tried to forcibly Bulgarize as many Greeks as possible; the ones they did not succeed with were either expelled or killed.

Photo downloaded from Wikipedia (Released to the public domain)

Until its liberation in October 1944, the country was devastated by the war, its economy and infrastructure ruined; its people hungry and disillusioned. More than 300,000 Greeks lost their lives during this period, and the country’s long-established Jewish population had been almost completely wiped out. In addition to all that, as soon as World War II ended, a civil war broke out in Greece, which would last until 1949 and leave the country in shambles. It took years for Greece to rebuild itself but in the meantime there were no jobs. There was no food. There was no hope. There was no future. So, in December of 1957, my mother boarded a ship with two of her sisters, leaving behind four other siblings, their parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, townsfolk and all their childhood friends, and headed for Canada. For a better life. They were, she said, filled with fear as they headed for the unknown. But they were also filled with hope for the future.

In my younger years, despite having learned about World War II in school, I failed to associate my parent’s childhood years with that period. Having been born – and having lived my entire life - in Canada, as far as I was concerned our lives had always been here, including my parents. It was only when I became a young adult that I took a sincere interest in hearing about their experiences in what they always referred to as the most difficult years of their lives.

I began to ask questions, encouraging them to share some of their memories during World War II. They told me about the sounds of gunfire they heard from soldiers battling nearby. They told me about Italian, German and Bulgarian soldiers walking through towns, searching for the local men who would run off to hide in the fields after a designated lookout standing on top of a tower sounded a bell to warn of incoming ‘enemy’ soldiers. My mother recalled her own father disappearing into the forest as German troops approached to avoid being picked up by them and face God knew what fate. She spoke about the young German soldier that stopped to give her candy as he marched by her home one day; perhaps the sight of her playing brought to mind a daughter of his own back home. My father told me of the time he ran like the wind down some mountain trails, desperate to get away from the gunfire nearby that he was certain was closing in on him. He remembered having to share a small plate of food with a sibling, and eating as quickly as possible to get his fair share. There was never enough food on these shared plates and fights broke out between siblings if one of them ate faster than the other; one of his brothers, he said, got stabbed by a fork for eating too fast. He talked about the constant hunger, the perpetual despair, the young men in his town that fought in the war and never returned, the women who lost their husbands, the children that lost their parents and the diseases that claimed lives. It was, they both said, a terrible time.

But of all the stories I’d ever been told, nothing has touched my soul (or rocked my world) like the one my mother recounted of her cousin’s experience in a neighbouring small town. Members of a communist movement raided this cousin’s community, slaughtering every resident, including women, children and the elderly. The bodies were callously tossed into the well, one of them being my mother’s cousin, who miraculously survived the massacre. When he was sure the ‘butchers’ had left, my mother’s cousin used the bodies as a ladder, climbing over friends, family members and townsfolk to get to the top of the well. Needless to say that this young man was never the same after this experience.

Listening to the elderly, especially those who have lived through and witnessed World War II, share such remarkable stories, is an amazing experience. I’ve had my fair share of such opportunities because most of the adults that I knew as a child came from different areas of Europe after the war, all with fascinating and distressing memories. A woman I worked with years ago, whose parents had immigrated from Poland, told me about her father having to dig a grave while being held at gunpoint by German soldiers that ordered him to prepare his grave because ‘today, you die’, only to be told after he finished that they were joking. He experienced this horror twice, something he never recovered from psychologically.

As unfortunate as it may be wars - with all their atrocities and with all the grief that they cause - have been a part of this world as long as man has existed. And as much as I hate to say it, they will almost certainly be a part of this world for a long time to come. During these periods, there have always been brave individuals who have joined forces to put an end to these conflicts, to stop the spread of evil, to liberate occupied countries, to help the weak, to fight for freedom. Brave individuals that have sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice, their lives and their futures so that people like me, and my children, and my children’s children, can live in peace.

Today is remembrance day, a day to commemorate the men and women who have made, and continue to make, these sacrifices on behalf of all of us.

To all these courageous people I say:
“Thank you. I am living the life I have today because of you”

Photo from SXC

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How To Wake Up A Lazy Ferret

"You up, Bailey? Huh? Huh? You up?"


"Oh, come on Bailey. You’ve been snoozing for the past three hours. Haven’t you had enough sleep by now?"

"Ack! I never realized how – um - fang-ish your teeth are."


"Hey, you know Bales, for a minute there, I thought you were gonna sing the way you opened up your mouth. Wouldn't that be just too funny? A singing ferret"

"Wakey, wakey Bailey, Wailey... It’s time to get up and exercise."

"Yes, it’s time to rise and shine my sweet furry face. It’s a beautiful day; don’t waste it sleeping!"

"How about a little neck rub to help you get going?"

"DAMN IT BAILEY! It looks like you’re falling asleep again. That’s it! Time to take out the big guns."

"You asked for it! Tickle, tickle..."

"Tickle, tickle, tickle..."

"If you’re not up by the time I count to three, I’m going to tickle you with both hands!"



"Two and a half..."

"That’s a good girl!"

And that’s how you get a lazy ferret to wake up and get some exercise...