Sunday, December 23, 2012

Past Deadline: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. Hope you enjoy my annual contribution for the season! (Published in The Perth Courier, Dec. 20/12).
’Twas the Night Before Christmas
Christmas is mere moments away, which means it’s time to butcher a classic poem once again and conjure up my favourite seasonal sprite for the 2012 version! My apologies, as always, to Clement Clark Moore….
’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Mama searched for a rhyme that was not the word “grouse.”
“Galldarnit!” she cried. “There is so much to do! What’s with all these deadlines? I need a whole crew!
“There’s writing and marking and editing – oh my!
“December’s so busy I might break down and cry!”
She gazed all around at the state of the home
And as the clock ticked she started to moan.
The Christmas cards waited, the presents weren’t wrapped
It might have to be done while everyone napped.
The groceries weren’t purchased, the eggnog not bought,
And without all those goodies one could be overwrought.
There were stockings to hang, some garland to string, a turkey to thaw and carols to sing.
At least with a Girlchild whose patience was low, the tree was a-glitter and ready to go. (Thanks to ample nagging in November.)
And just as the panic started to rise,
A wonderful sight came to Mama’s eyes.
In the kitchen she started to see a small glow,
And as she looked on it continued to grow.
Mama smiled. “Could it be?” she asked the thin air.
“Has my fairy returned? Do I hope? Do I dare?”
And with a loud pop her wish became true:
The Stress-Free Holiday Fairy™ in a kitchen near you!
With a wink and a grin she tapped Mama’s arm,
“Your annual struggle never loses its charm!
“I do like to visit and help you all out,
“But your ability to learn leaves me in doubt.”
Mama looked puzzled and felt slightly perplexed.
“But what do you mean? I hope you’re not vexed!” (Cool! Perplexed and vexed!)
“Not at all!” said the fairy, “I’m just trying to help
“Because your annual problem is as common as kelp.
“The issue, you see, comes down to routine. I see that you’ve got one, but it’s far from pristine.”
And with that the Fairy brandished her wand
And conjured a date book for now and beyond.
“You see in October your workload is steady,
“But not so busy that you cannot get ready.
“Plan ahead, my dear, so when December comes,
“You won’t have to panic – you won’t have the glums.”
“Pshaw!” Mama said. “I’ll never succeed
“In thinking of Christmas when it’s autumn indeed!
“Besides,” she said smugly, “there’s something about
“All those early shoppers that gives me the gout.”
The Fairy just stood there. “You’re being a goof.
“You’re just being stubborn, and I’ve had enoof.” (Sometimes the Fairy has a Scottish accent, you know.)
“I’ll help you this time and I’ll be back next year,
“But it would be a nice change if it were for some cheer!”
With that the Fairy lifted her wand
And before Mama knew it she’d already gone.
The presents, the groceries – everything was ready
And suddenly Mama felt a lot more steady.
She smiled when she heard the last call of the sprite,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Boychild, Girlchild, Groom-boy and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Past Deadline: Beavers Taking Over the World?

Here is “Past Deadline” from Dec. 13 in The Perth Courier.
Beavers taking over the world?
With the whole “end of the world” prophecy coming up on us in a week or so, I thought this might be a good time for some deep reflection.
I mean, I have been percolating along as if the world is not going to end. I have plans to do stuff after Dec. 21. I am proceeding with Christmas shopping. The tree and decorations are up. There is a grocery list for next week pinned to the fridge.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but think about something that was suggested to me recently and I wonder if it is more than just a coincidence given all this doomsday stuff:
Are beavers plotting to take over the world?
You may recall that a few weeks ago I was stumped for a column idea, so I posted a plea on Facebook. The beaver question was posted by my brother, and I think this is a fine time to explore it.
I mean, really. What is UP with beavers? They are SO busy!
Beavers have big, scary teeth that they use to cut down trees. These lumberjacks of the wild do so in order to have lumber to build dams, which creates a pond in which they build their lodges, store food piles underwater in winter, and use for protection from predators. They use some trees for food.
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website indicates beavers cut down an average of 216 trees per year – some of which are up to 40 centimetres in diameter.
Ask any property owner about those felled trees, and he or she will doubtless concur it is a lot of damage.
It’s not really the tree loss that might make one think this industrious mammal has a secret plan to take over the world – it’s the darned dams.
Beavers are prolific builders. Some say the sound of trickling water stimulates their urge to build, and we all know there is a lot of trickling water in this world.
Oh, indeed, these busy critters have demonstrated time and again their affinity for creating their own infrastructure and disrupting ours. Their dams flood properties and wash out roads. They create disruption and stress.
What IS their end game, anyway? I mean, once they obliterate the countryside and move into the cities, what is the point? Are they suddenly going to reveal themselves as ferocious carnivores that only ate foliage as a clever front?
Humans have fought back, for sure. Beavers have been eliminated from large parts of their original range thanks to trapping in the early 19th century. In fact, the quest for beaver pelts is credited for much of the early exploration of this continent. Arguably, if Europeans hadn’t had a love for beaver hats, the little rodent might have taken over this continent by now.
It is a humbling thought. What a watery world it might have been!
Aw, I’m just joshin’. I like beavers and I don’t think we are in imminent peril from them, although those teeth look kind of nasty and I know there was a story in this paper a few months back about a local guy bitten by a beaver.
Nevertheless, I have to say I am much more leery of insects. I think ants, ticks, fleas, lice and cockroaches are much more likely to take over the world. If they ever form an alliance I, for one, would most certainly be driven over the edge by their combined strength.
Thank you, brother Doug, for bringing this important concern to our attention. I am so glad to have this aired.
Next week: Are dust bunnies plotting to take over my house? (Okay, maybe not….)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Past Deadline: Fratricide Averted

Here is the Dec. 6 edition of "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier.
Fratricide averted
The other day I phoned my mom and thanked her for not killing my brother and me when we were kids.
It’s not the first time I have said it. I don’t know how she did it.
Boychild, almost 11, and Girlchild, 7, have been fighting like the proverbial cats and dogs these days. They can’t seem to be in a room together for more than 14 seconds before some sort of ridiculous squabble erupts.
Often it is screen related. Someone is invariably watching something the other doesn’t want to watch. Or maybe they will agree to play a game together, and then start screaming about a) the choice of game or b) the particular strategy employed or c) the rules of the game, etc.
I have already had to set up a schedule about which days which kid gets to choose which game, and they know the next step is for the screen-related items to be declared off limits for both.
The frustrating thing is, I can relate. It is often the Way of Siblings to disagree about pretty much everything merely on principle.
When we were kids, my parents had to set up a schedule for my brother and me when it came to doing dishes. We started off doing them together, but when it devolved into arguments about who was doing what and who could inflict the most skin damage with a tea towel, we were soon segregated to doing them individually on alternating nights.
I was mean to my brother (sorry, Doug). I was four and a half years older than he, and for a long time I was bigger and thought I was smarter. The physical part of our sibling rivalry ended fairly quickly when he got bigger and started pushing back.
No problem. I always had the psychological warfare thing going on, so I just leaned a little more heavily on that. (Girls often excel at this.)
I think I have related the Darth Vader story, but here’s a recap to illustrate a point.
Picture it: Sicily, 1947. Wait…wrong rerun. Picture it: Perth, circa 1980. I am about 10, my brother is around five. Star Wars is popular. I hadn’t seen it, but knew who the good guys and bad guys were and that Princess Leia’s hair looked like earmuffs.
At the time our basement was only partially finished, and I was down there playing with my little brother. The furnace tended to make weird, gaspy, rumbly sounds, and I thought it would be fun to scare the bejeebers out of my brother by telling him it was Darth Vader. I told him to hide under a desk in the dark, then I crept upstairs and rolled on the floor laughing as he came screaming up the stairs, terrified, a few minutes later.
(Yes, he still speaks to me.)
It backfired. He claimed to be “afraid” to go downstairs for what seemed like years afterward, so basement-related errands had to be done by me. (Well played, little bro.)
Anyway, I remember this as I listen to the shrieking and clamour around me as Boychild and Girlchild navigate the world of sibling rivalry. I see the trickery and the power plays and the supposed “hatred,” and as much as I sometimes want to set up schedules so that they are never in the same room together for anything, ever, I know this is all part of a complex social something er other.
Besides, when I see things like Girlchild being sad about something that has happened at school and Boychild offering to go and “talk to the kid” or “keep an eye on things,” I know everything is going to be fine.