A Therapeutic Walk in the Snow

I can’t lie. When the snow fell and then accumulated yesterday, I was bummed. After all, the calendar said that yesterday was the last day of summer. Since August 25th, it’s mostly been cool and dreary. I did feel sorry for myself…

And then, came the news out of Ottawa and Gatineau. Not one but two tornadoes, the first an EF-2 strength, with winds to 220 km/h, and then a second an EF-3, with winds to 265 km/h struck. Pictures and video are terrifying and show mass devastation- houses, buildings, trees, cars, reduced to sticks and twisted metal. Some areas are unrecognizable. If there is one silver lining to this storm cloud, no one died, as far as can be determined.

Here, on the prairies, the snow is a lot more than an inconvenience and something for me to whine about. As farmers look across fields with crops, swaths, and a year’s work, they wonder if anything can be salvaged. Grades of the grain decrease as each snowy, wet day passes and the second danger is that crops in swaths will begin to sprout. Even with perfect, unseasonably, warm weather, it is going to take weeks for grain to dry enough to harvest. A slower kind of devastation.

Dogs don’t really understand weather and so this morning, snow was no excuse, we headed out on our normal route.

The snow on the trees is pretty and after a while, I felt better about the weather. It was chilly but tomorrow is supposed to warm up. As we walked along, little sparrows darted among the branches, twittering to one another. My Scruffy, who has no teeth and weighs 10 pounds, charged a timid, Border Collie-cross, and chased her. Tazzie, the Jack Russell, made several new friends, humans, of course.

When we were close to home, a young fellow, ten or eleven years old met us.

“Can I pet your dogs?”

Of course, Taz was delighted to be introduced to a new friend and then the boy said, “How do you like your weekend off from school?”

Ha! I must have acted as a supply teacher for his class one day. I replied that I wasn’t happy with the snow.

“I know. Yesterday we went to Lloyd,” he said. “And Mom bought me these mitts and toque at Walmart.”

Then he said, “Enjoy your weekend.”

Perspective is everything. A simple walk through the trees, a meeting with a young boy, and an adventure with a Border Collie. The air is fresh, I wasn’t cold and I’m pretty sure breathing it, stimulates the release of endorphins. I’m not bummed now. And I can appreciate it’s just another phase of Alberta weather.

I do hope there is a stretch of mild temperatures so crops can be harvested.

IMG_2585 Do you think my begonias are going to survive? 😀

 

The Aga Khan Garden (UofA Botanical Gardens)

Alberta is experiencing late fall weather early with snow, rain, and overcast skies. We could have changed our plan to visit the new addition to the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens, the Aga Khan Garden, but despite the 2 degree Celcius temperature, we didn’t. Two native Albertans and a transplanted Vancouverite are not that easily deterred.

The chill gave us the advantage of being three among very few other visitors. There was a bus of school kids and then it was like we had a private viewing. The Aga Khan Garden is a spectacular 4.8 hectares developed for Edmonton’s region and climate, inspired by Mughal traditions, and made possible by the Aga Khan’s $25 million dollar gift. The Garden has been 10 years in creation and is now open to the public. It is meant as a meeting place; a place to connect with nature, and other humans; it is a symbol of hope, peace and unity.

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This gives you an idea of the size of the Garden, the people to the right were removing dahlias that were mildewing in the damp of the recent rain and snow. Tulips are being planted in the bed for spring.

We thought that the main feature would be the Aga Khan Garden but were surprised at the other elements. First we walked by the Wedding Pavilion, and toward the Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden. At this time of the year, it was a stroll through the woods with squirrels, blue jays and robins. Ponds held huge Canada geese who were quite unperturbed by us going by.

Farther along, we entered the Indigenous Garden which is the only one of its kind in Canada. It features the plants that Indigenous people used for medicine, domestic purposes, and of course, ornamentation. It was too bad that most of the plants were heading to dormancy.

The Kurimoto Japanese Garden is groomed, formal (to me), and designed in the kaiyou (walking style.) There are ornaments, pagodas, and water features. The Garden is named after Dr. Yuichi Kurimoto, the first Japanese national to graduate from the University of Alberta Faculty of Arts in 1930.

After walking through the Japanese Garden, we were excited to come to the Indoor Show Rooms. We chose the Tropical and Bufferfly Room first because we needed to warm up. There were beautiful blooms and as the name says, several types of butterflies fluttering about.

The other two rooms were interesting but not as eye catching. The Arid room held, of course, cacti of many varieties. The Temperate Room had plants we were more familiar with and fewer blooms.

We wanted to have a cup of coffee, and we could have, but hardy as we Albertans are, we said, no, to a cuppa on the patio of the Outdoor Cafe. The heater was on in the car on the drive back.

The day and weather weren’t ideal, but good company, proper jackets, and footwear made it fun. I’m a little embarrassed that although I live so close, I haven’t been to these gardens before. I’ll be back when my “hardiness” is a non-factor and the gardens are in their full glory.

Something Else to Worry About

I know that my blog is called the mild side and I meant to write mellow, worth-a-little chuckle pieces. But I can’t control my urges to occasionally rant- this is post 10 so I’m going to rant.

At a certain age, your body makes changes so it’s more comfortable; changes you might not be as comfortable with. I not talking about wrinkles, sagging boobs, loose bellies, fallen asses. I am talking, people, about feet. Yes, feet. Now women are putting themselves through nasty surgeries because when you get older, even your feet get too ugly for aesthetically sensitive people to be exposed to. What kind of disgusting conditions can be corrected with cosmetic surgery for the feet?

Feet get knobbly. Bunions need removal to slim feet, toes can be lengthened or shortened, lumps and bumps can be shaved, bulging veins stripped or scrawny feet plumped with filler.  Women might choose some of these procedures to lose a shoe size and get that more glamerous size 8.

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Ah- the ideal. Is there any wonder women’s feet show their age?

All surgeries come with some risk. It’s ludicrous to think that women are made to feel so self-conscious about their feet that they won’t wear sandals or go swimming. Real physical problems that cause pain, make it impossible to find shoes, or interfere with mobility should be corrected; however surgery to have pretty feet is plain crazy and even worse is that another impossible “beauty” standard is being set.

What is next? What body part hasn’t been tweaked, modified or totally re-done? I thought when the Chinese women no longer had to bind their feet…what a liberation. And here we are in 2018 headed down the same senseless path.

And prepare yourselves- I’m including a horrifying picture, unretouched, of the feet of an old lady. They’re actually great feet. They let me walk miles if I want. They let me run (try to run- Ha) with my grandchildren; they let me walk my dogs for three kilometers a day, and dance the night away if my husband’s gimpy knee ever recovers. No cosmetic surgery for me.

The information for this rant came from The Edmonton Journal, Monday the September 10. The opinions, of course, are mine.

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In their full glory. They spent the summer in that general purpose sport shoe, the flip-flop. Yikes! Bulging veins. Knobbly toes. Ugh – tendons visible.

 

It Shouldn’t Be That Hard

Every year, kids go back to school  in September and every year, the dietitian/nutritionist guest appears on morning tv to help moms and dads with the onerous task of packing lunches for kids. And to create even more angst they turn it into a search for the new super foods that boost the immune system, that kids, gasp, like and most importantly are convenient. Before anyone clicks this off in disgust, I did work full-time and I did pack school lunches; that is, I packed them until the special orders got too “special.” The kind where ‘I want mustard, no lettuce. I want a little mustard and lettuce and mayo. Don’t cut the meat too thick. I don’t want an apple (insert fruit).’

In one of my many parenting fails, I said, “Fine. You pack your own lunches. THEN you positively will get exactly the food you want.”

My son was in grade two but turned out to be great at making a lunch and does it for his own kids now. My daughter was older and although she didn’t like making her lunch, she liked eating. Her lunches were pretty good, too.

The thing is lunches included a sandwich, a fruit, a snack of some kind (maybe another fruit), a cookie, etc. Nothing fancy. Every Sunday we had a “nice” meal of some kind, a roast beef, a pork roast, a roasted chicken. Then there was a healthy protein for sandwich filling. I confess to allowing little pudding cups and some other packaged “treats.” But the main course was the sandwich.

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This sandwich is pretty upscale for what hit our school lunches but you get the idea…

Another closely related parenting fail. I sent roasted or fried chicken drumsticks to be eaten with nicely buttered bread. NO. The rule was that sandwiches were eaten first and so my poor kids had to eat the bread before they got to the chicken. I mention this so that no one thinks I’m preaching.

 

But lunches do not have to have dragon fruit, yogurt squishy tubes, or so many of the prepackaged things kids get. Some of the packaging is a challenge for me to open when a child asks for help. I’m encouraged when I see  some lunches that feature tupperware containers  packed with grapes, cherry tomatoes, or cucumber slices.

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Just a sample of fruits readily available- nature’s fast food.

I cringe when I see that the choices are gummies, packaged cookies, Lunchables (or their copy-cats.) The “pizza” you make yourself is horrifying. Once the package is opened, a grim, red sauce can be spread over a cracker-like bottom and cheese swept from the factory floor can be sprinkled on top. Kids like them ’cause they’re doing it themselves. Kids like doing stuff. Make them responsible for their own lunches. Let them learn to make a sandwich, wash and apple or some grapes. Let them take milk in a thermos and forget the chocolate choice.

 

Finally, a hummingbird

For years now, my husband and I have engaged in futile efforts to attract a humming- bird (or in fantasies) hummingbirds to the yard. There are trees around and every year I try to plant flowers that will attract the illusive little birds. This season it was some scarlet runner beans. They climbed up the metal trellis I put behind them and dutifully produced the red flowers. No hummingbirds.

We have had crows, magpies, and blue jays. They are large enough to escape the small hawks which have taken up residence in our neighbourhood. There were few songbirds because- hawks. They might prey on hummingbirds, we theorized. Despite years of failure, a feeder with a sugar solution (and no red dye to harm anything that showed up) was hung. It’s been a year for the wasps and they had no trouble feeding on the artificial nectar.

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If you look at the right “flower” you can see one of our regular visitors.

I gave up but Gary kept watching and hallelujah one morning, he saw an elusive visitor. He tried not to be disappointed because it was a lone, small hummingbird, a female. It was single and in fragile health he thought. Our hummingbird didn’t hover, but sat to feed. It wasn’t much bigger than the wasps but she wasn’t intimidated by them.

After observing her several times (me, even a couple), and consulting the “bird book” and Mr. Google, we determined that our little green bird was indeed, a female Calliope hummingbird. And here she is. I wish I could say the photo was mine but it isn’t. She is very dainty and soon will be headed south.

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Again, thanks to google, I can tell you that she is, weighing about as much as a ping-pong ball, the smallest, long-distance migratory bird in the world. Calliope humming-birds winter in Mexico and then in spring fly up the Pacific Coast. Our little girl is out of her range since we are farther east than this hummingbird species is usually found; Calliope hummingbirds are more likely to summer in BC. Soon she will make her way back along the Rockies to Mexico, a round-trip of 5,000 miles.

Calliopes are feisty little birds and have been seen chasing red-tail hawks. We will be looking anxiously next spring for the return of our little hummingbird. Surely she is not an anomaly; surely she will bring a mate and maybe friends.

 

Asperger’s Children by Edith Sheffer

Asperger’s Children traces as the subtitle says, The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.

Today one in sixty-eight children is diagnosed with autism. The term was introduced in 1911 by Eugene Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist but the “father” of autism was Hans Asperger, a Nazi psychiatrist from Vienna. Austria initially embraced the Third Reich and its goal of transforming human behaviour. Some people would be transformed and others eliminated.

The Final Solution and resulting Holocaust are well known. What isn’t nearly as well known is the program to euthanize children who wouldn’t be useful to the Nazi machine. The disabled, the paralyzed, the slow thinkers, the bed wetters, the harelips, the epileptics, the ineducable, the unable to work were all categories of children to get rid of. They had to connect to the “collective” of National Socialism. If they weren’t useful to the regime in some way, it was deemed best to remove their burden on society.

Aperger’s Children is Edith Sheffers’ history of autism and how it was a creation of Dr. Hans Asperger to describe children who had trouble making eye contact, making friends, and with social contact. Before the Nazis came to Vienna, he worked with children he called autistic pychopaths and tried to help them. As Austria was absorbed into the Nazi expansion, he was drawn in to the euthanasia for “useless” (my term) children. Reputable Jewish psychiatrists left Vienna, as did others who felt threatened. Asperger stayed and over the war years, he published and refined his defintion and diagnosis of autism. In the beginning, he seemed more humane and involved in trying to help children. Besides the obvious categories listed above, rebellious children, those who defied parents, or were viewed as an expense were referred to him and others like him. Arbitrarily. children as old as 16 were evaluated as salvageable or sent to Pavilion 17 in Spiegelgrund, a clinic for problem youth. Many children entered Pavilion 17 healthy and left in a death cart. Some were subjected to medical experiments; all were mistreated, even tortured.

Dr. Hans Asperger was a part of this killing program. He didn’t directly administer needles or perform experimental surgeries but he did diagnose and send children to Pavilion 17. He was well aware of their fate and as the war progressed, he tailored his papers and lectures to reflect Nazi policies more and more. One thing he never did was join the Nazi party although he did join several organizations affiliated with it. He was a Catholic and these two things saved him when the Allies arrived.

Only three of the doctors involved in the death program in Spiegelgrund were prosecuted for their part in euthanizing children. They received short sentences they didn’t fully serve. Other doctors, nurses and workers had a similar fate and after the war were back working in children’s clinics.

Dr. Hans Asperger continused as a psychiatrist and held several chairs and leading positions at universities. He didn’t pursue his autism work but went on to different interests. It was in 1981, that Lorna Wing, a leading British psychiatrist, discovered his 1944 thesis and from it came the description and designation of Asperger’s syndrome. She was fascinated by his patients’ symptoms and how they were related to Gemut (a German term referring to an individual’s connection to the collective, almost like a soul, and very much the social aspect of a person.)

In the 1990’s the autism idea took off. The diagnosis could be low-functioning, medium-functioning, or high functioning. The scary thing is that the diagnosis began with Asperger’s work in Nazi Vienna. It wasn’t well-documented, the number of patients he examined was low, and his research flimsy. Yet, today, children are treated using his ideas of what may be wrong with them.

This was a difficult post to write. The work at Spiegelgrund was so horrifying and Asperger ended up with his name attached to the condition he used to send children to their deaths. Asperger’s Children is a difficult book to read; I could only handle a chapter at a time. It is an important book, though, and one that is well worth biting your lip and getting through.

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Apple Pie Procrastination

There are two apple trees in our yard; they are mature and produce lots of apples high up in the branches. If this was a normal year, the fruit on the far tree would be just ready. This wasn’t a normal year and the apples are scarred from hail and were ready way sooner than most years. I managed, with a bit of a threat to life and limb, to pick enough for, get this, one pie. I knew I wanted to make some pies; I freeze them and if there is a special occasion or if it’s a nasty winter day, I’ll pull one out and voila! a treat. I did procrastinate just a little and when I went to pick the apples, a lot had already dropped. The ones left were hard to reach and as I said, scarred and overripe. I made a pie anyway and it’s in the freezer.

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And here it is. I channeled my mom just a little. Any time she made a pie, the extra bit of pastry was turned into a little bit of art, usually mimicking a poinsettia. So there it is- I cheated and used a cookie cutter but there is a decoration on this single pie from this year’s apples.

There were a few left over so I googled a recipe and made an apple-cheddar loaf. Canadian Living has the best recipes that taste good, aren’t crazy to make, and turn out. The loaf was pronounced pretty good, and “I may have a slice of that for breakfast.” The husband isn’t good with new flavours. I’m not suggesting that there is anything unique or unusual about the loaf but it does taste good.

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And here it is, under wraps because I tried a slice before I remembered to take a picture. If you want to try the loaf, click here for the  recipe.

I realize it is the May Long Weekend…sigh. We aren’t doing anything and for the people camping, it isn’t the best of weather. Weather didn’t used to stop us. Before retirement, it was the last hurrah of summer. If like me, you’re home this long weekend, get your apples while you can. Pies and apple bread.