Monday, December 9, 2013
This past weekend all Christmas broke loose at the Fisher farm. I had an agenda when I woke up Sunday morning because I knew things were only going to get busier before the big day and if I didn’t get a move on the lights would never get up. It’s not like they can put themselves up.
So, I found the ladder and the long hooked pole that the Farmer had rigged up for this very purpose. I got the box of lights out of the basement, spent half an hour untangling them and stretching them out across the front lawn, then I fastened the end of the string of lights to the end of the hooked pole. Wielding my instrument like a super-long fly-fishing rod, I cast up toward the top of the huge pine tree. And promptly got the entire apparatus stuck there.
I got the pole back and the end of the lights are sort of up at the top of the tree. Almost at the top. Good enough. A man on a galloping horse would never notice, as my mom says.
I brought the pole to the barn and got a garden rake out instead. Armed with that, I repeatedly pushed the string of lights up onto the branches as I moved my ladder around the tree. Almost tipped over a few times, and I imagined the boys watching me from the house. I was stubborn, didn’t ask for help, and decided halfway through I didn’t need it anyway. I got the job done.
Back in the house, I decided I would let the men go find me a tree while I dragged boxes of decorations out of the attic crawl space. I found the balls and the stars, the angels and the ribbon that I wind through the branches. I tested the strings of white lights and hung the stockings all over the living room. Then I started getting the house ready for Sunday dinner and waited for the men. I had given them less than an hour to find me a tree before we had to start cooking dinner. I hoped they would be lucky.
I remember one Christmas a few years ago when I challenged the Farmer to find me a tree on the property. We drove the ATV out back over deep snow and I pointed at the top of a huge tree. He climbed up and sawed the top five feet off. When it fell down to the ground and rolled over I burst out laughing. The back of it was just a bunch of brown twigs. My poor husband was covered in sweat from his tree-climbing and sawing efforts. We just left the poor thing there in the snow and went to visit the Johnson Brothers instead. And that’s what we have done every year – gone to a tree farm to pick out a perfectly trimmed and cultivated Christmas tree, like the cityfolk.
Well, this year I decided I wanted to try again. And the Farmer is always up for a challenge. Within an hour I heard the ATV returning, a beautiful round tree on the trailer and our two Chinese students dangling their feet off the back of the ride.
It wasn’t until they unloaded their bounty that I was told it was actually two trees tied together. Leave it to the Farmer to come up with that little feat of engineering. Bringing it into the house was a bit of a challenge, and so was finding a space for it in the living room. I got the lights and ribbon, ornaments and candy canes on it before our guests arrived and even snapped a picture or two. John and Jerry pronounced it beautiful, and I have to agree. It’s the best tree we have ever had.
Our beautiful double-barreled Christmas tree tried to fall into the room once during Sunday dinner, reminding us to tighten the screws in the base as well as tying it to the curtain rods on both sides. Now it is secure. It should make it through the holidays, as long as I remember to lock the cats in the basement before I go to bed at night. ‘Cause if they get into it, the song will be “oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, your ornaments are history…”
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 8:01 AM
Thursday, December 5, 2013
It’s that time of year again. Most grocery stores and shopping malls are manned by a Salvation Army bell-ringer this month, collecting cash for people in need. If you do as Nickelback says and “donate every time you’re asked,” you will have given a sizeable amount by the time Christmas rolls around. Pace yourself!
I have volunteered my time as a Salvation Army bell-ringer for a number of years now. I do this for a few reasons. First, it reminds me of when I was growing up and really puts me in the Christmas spirit. Second, I love the smiles I get from people during my shift – even those who for whatever reason don’t put any coin in the kettle. How can you not feel good about getting a steady stream of smiles? Sometimes I see people I haven’t seen in years. Or meet someone I have only previously met in conversations online. And finally, I donate my time on the kettle shifts because I don’t have a lot of money to donate. I know the Salvation Army needs bell-ringers. Without them, they cannot do their Christmas fundraising.
If like me, you cannot afford to give a lot to the needy but would like to help your North Grenville neighbours who don’t have enough this Christmas, consider donating a few hours of your time. Call The Salvation Army office at 613-258-3583 and get yourself signed up. They will assign you a two-hour shift, at one of our local retail stations. You just need to look people in the eye, smile, and wish them a Merry Christmas and thank them if they choose to put something in the kettle. And if you have as much fun as I do, sign yourself up for another shift, and another. My first kettle shift at the LCBO this year brought in close to $600 in two hours. Think of that. Without a bell-ringer, the Salvation Army would not have that money to give back to the people in their community programs. They are short of volunteers and really need your help ringing the bells this year. You don’t have to commit to anything. Just do one two-hour shift and see how you like it. And I thank you, in advance. The money you will bring in during your shift goes directly back into the programs that help the needy in North Grenville, this Christmas and all year long. The Christmas Kettle campaign is the Salvation Army’s biggest fundraiser of the year. This Christmas, they hope to bring in over $50,000.
The Salvation Army in Kemptville has a new team this year. Calvin and Erin Wong have the training and resources to help people in need, and they certainly have the heart. What they need is for people to sign up. If you or someone you know is in need this Christmas, please contact them. Last year close to 130 Christmas baskets were distributed through The Salvation Army in North Grenville. This year, just 40 families have signed up to receive this program. Yes, you need to fill out some paperwork and have an interview regarding your situation in order to qualify for this program. But that is just due diligence and an important part of being good stewards of the donations that have been entrusted to them by the community. If you need help this Christmas, contact them. They want to help you. Maybe you don’t regularly need help but this month in particular is going to be extremely difficult. Give them a call. They are here to help.
STAR 975, your community radio station, is partnering with The Salvation Army on Friday, December 6th, to assist in this year’s Christmas campaign. Please consider calling in at 613-258-0467 and donating what you can to help. I would like to challenge those in our community who have been blessed, who have more than enough. Please call in and donate what you can for this worthy cause. To our local business people. If you have had a good year, please share it with those in need. And if you have been helped by The Salvation Army in your life, please call and share your story with us, or come to the station and let us put you on the air. This is important, and we need to do what we can. Because need knows no season. Thank you, and Merry Christmas.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 2:55 PM
Saturday, November 30, 2013
With less than a month to go until Christmas, it’s time to think about shopping for gifts, if you haven’t done that already. Maybe you’ve had your list checked off and gifts wrapped in storage for weeks already. But if you still have gift-purchasing to do, I would like to issue a challenge to you: shop local.
Kemptville and area has more than enough of everything to provide significant and meaningful gifts for everyone on your list. Of course, if you have small children you may be slightly more challenged in checking off every item on the wish list as our supply of toys is limited to places like Walmart and Giant Tiger, but do give them a try – you never know what you will find. And by shopping local, you will be saving gas money, not to mention parking frustration.
Don’t even get me started on shopping in the States. I realize some of you live close enough to the border to see the lower prices beckoning you from across the waters but the truth is, if we continue to spend our money in the
our shops - and communities - along the river will not thrive. I know someone
who boarded a bus to shop in the States on Black Friday last year. She devoted
a day to shopping, went without adequate sleep, battled lineups and crowd
stress and when she returned to Canada
she realized the luggage she had purchased could be found for less in Ottawa.
Most of our local retailers are offering significant savings this time of year. Have you taken the time to look? You might be surprised to discover you can buy local, hand-crafted leather goods, jewellery and even furniture for the same price you would pay in
Ottawa or the States. Yes, the big chain
stores are blasting their advertising at us from every direction. You turn on
the TV or radio, log onto the Internet and blam! You know what’s on sale this
week in Best Buy, Toys R Us, and more. But if you take those prices with you to
a local store and compare, you might be surprised. In some cases our local
retailers might be willing to match the flyer price of a bigger dealer. More
likely, their price is a bit higher because they don’t purchase the same
quantities as the bigger stores. But if you can buy the same camera in
Kemptville for $20 more than one in Ottawa,
give yourself a pat on the back. You saved yourself that $20 in gas, plus the
frustration of negotiating traffic, searching for parking and dealing with
crowds. And that, my friend, is priceless.
We are all about keeping it local these days. Why stop at Christmas? Start at one end of town and work your way down. Fill the stockings, stuff the gift bags and spend the money you would have spent commuting for shopping trips in town, taking yourself out to dinner at one of our fabulous local restaurants.
Find that great Christmas or New Year’s Eve party dress at one of our Old Town Kemptville consignment shops, or have a local designer whip one up for you (better get your order in now though; time’s a wastin’!). Get your hair and nails done locally and don’t forget the jewellery. Want to feel even better about your Christmas spending this year? Buy recycled furniture at one of our local auction houses for a truly unique and special gift.
Dreading the thought of driving through a blizzard to a party in
Where you either have to go without festive cocktails because you have an hour
drive home, or shell out a couple hundred dollars for a hotel room? If you
still want to celebrate big without the drive, hire a local event planner and
caterer to help you host a party to remember at your house. And if you’re on a
budget, host a cozy potluck and invite friends to stay over. That’s what we are
doing for New Year’s this year. I’ll send out the invitations as soon as I’m
finished my Christmas shopping, in Kemptville.
Within our borders you can find exquisite handmade items, unique imported goods and more. This Saturday, November 30th is the perfect time to head to downtown Kemptville for Old Town Christmas. Get your shopping “passport” stamped at designated stores and you might win a diamond ring! And while you’re there, come join me at Rotary Park in front of the massive Christmas tree for a carol sing-a-long.
If more of us make the effort to shop local at Christmas and year-round, we will see less empty storefronts and more thriving businesses in our booming little town. Happy Shopping, everyone!
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 4:09 PM
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, Remembrance Day was the day when you got dressed in your guide or scout uniform, bare knees freezing, and lined up with all of the nice old veterans for the town parade. We walked down from the Legion around
Street and up Prescott to the cenotaph on the front lawn of
the high school. It wasn’t a long walk but it felt like it to a kid. The
ceremony itself wasn’t long either. Again, it feels longer when you have bare
kneecaps. We sang some hymns, one of the school kids would read the Flanders
Field poem, we’d sing some more, say a few prayers, have a moment of silence, lay
some wreaths, march back to the Legion. That day was important because it was
meant to remind us of the sacrifices made years and years ago, in far away,
long ago wars. We studied their significance and went through the motions but
we had very little personal reference to what we were supposedly remembering.
But somewhere along the way, it all changed. I remember the day I walked my little girls over to the cenotaph and saw a sea of uniforms. A bus had arrived from Petawawa and hundreds of soldiers had come to share the solemn ceremony with us. It was an awesome sight. I realized I recognized one of them. A boy I went to highschool with, Ken Kerouac was in the army and had come home for Remembrance Day. After the ceremony we went to the Legion and I said hello. Later he came back to our house for lunch. He told us about his life and it all seemed so surreal.
I had an uncle who fought in the Second World War and the story was that he was involved in the liberation of a village near
Normandy. One November I
took it upon myself to give him a call. I thought it would be a nice idea to
call him personally and thank him for what he did, all those years ago. He
answered the phone and after being reminded of who I was he said he wasn’t
planning to march with the other veterans in his local parade. He didn’t like
that sort of thing, he said. He didn’t like to be reminded. He planned to go
deer hunting that day instead.
Over the next few years we had friends marry into the military, and realized it meant something different than it used to. There is far more risk involved. War is recent. War is now for some people.
Today we have young soldiers marching with the old on November 11th. And particularly since September 11, 2001, it has taken on a whole new meaning for most of us.
Friends of ours had a son in the military, and they lost him. Not to war, but to mental illness. I don’t know if he struggled with mental issues his whole life, or if it came about as a result of what he had seen and been through as an adult.
I have another friend who suffered at the hands of an abusive father his whole life; unfortunately he grew up to be just as abusive to his own wife. I see the old man in his military uniform and I just think it’s sad.
I’m not saying war ruins everyone who serves. I’m sure many manage to escape unscathed, untouched by the dark, negative forces that permeate every aspect of battle, and serving in war-torn areas. But for some, it causes irreparable damage. Cracks form inside. You can’t see them, but they are there. Their families know it. Sons, brothers, husbands come home changed. Their families are tasked with the responsibility then of bringing them back to reality, back to life.
If you still feel a little out of touch with Remembrance Day, take a moment to browse through the website tabs at Veterans’ Affairs Canada. We have Canadians dealing with war injuries, mental health issues, difficulty in transitioning from military to civilian life. Some of our homeless people are veterans of war who were unable to assimilate to civilian life upon returning from battle.
No matter what your stance is on our involvement in military activity, we all need to take a moment on November 11th to consider the sacrifices being made, in the past, and today.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 5:31 PM
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
He is what you might call a bad dog. An un-trainable dog. But I have that recessive gene that just makes this quality more endearing to me. Something about Cody and the way he completely ignores me, even has me checking his hearing, just makes me like him more. Cody is lucky that I appreciate this primal element of his personality. Because he has tested my patience to the limit in the seven years I have known him. Cody is closer to fourteen years old, by the way. If the rule of ‘dog years’ is upheld, that makes him about ninety-eight years old. Far too old to be pulling me on the end of his leash as we do our three-to-five kilometre walk in the afternoons. Far too old to be jumping over fences, off balconies and into idling cars the moment the door is opened. And yet he does. In his simple mind, he is still a pup. And so he pulls, and jumps, and races. Sometimes, in the extreme heat of the summer, he walks a little more slowly on the way home, allowing me to catch up. But then he has to stop at every ditch, pond and swamp puddle along the road to quench his thirst and cool his hide. To date I have not been pulled in with him, but it has been a struggle.
One day I was writing in my office, next door to the kitchen, when I heard a sharp “Bang.” I got up and walked into the kitchen. At first I didn’t see anything amiss. I took another step and peered around the corner into the living room. Cody was there where I had left him, apparently still sleeping on his rug on the floor. Then I noticed the cutting board, lying on the kitchen floor. The cutting board that, when I left the kitchen earlier, had a defrosting boneless rib roast sitting on it. I picked up the board. It appeared to have been licked clean. I looked around the kitchen island for the missing rib roast. I walked into the living room and gave the dozing dog a nudge with my foot. The folds of his blanket-rug held no roast. Behind the couch: no meat. Under the coffee table: only dust bunnies. Where was my roast? Just then Cody burped. The rest of the night he seemed to be quite uncomfortable from a digestive perspective, but we never saw any trace of what was meant to be our Sunday dinner. He’s kind of weirdly magical that way.
I didn’t think Cody would be able to walk the entire 5-k loop of our road with me but the cooler weather has invigorated him and he has learned to maintain an easier pace. He loves our walks. So much so, that he decided not to wait for me one night, and took off on his own. He just pulled on his stretched-out collar and suddenly he was free. Someone likely saw my bad dog trotting down the middle of County Road 20 and pulled over. When they opened their car door, I imagine he hopped right in.
I was pretty worried when we couldn’t find Cody, even after a survey of the neighbours and a slow walk followed by a drive around the block. I worried I would find him in a ditch somewhere, because he is not at all road-smart. But the next day I found him, at Big Sky Ranch. He had spent the night in an outdoor cage beside a lovely Boxer dog and a German Shepherd. He seemed quite anxious to go home and sleep off his adventures.
I paid the fee to get him back, and had the Farmer tighten his collar so he can’t escape so easily again. But I suspect if he really wants to go he will, for it’s in his nature.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 4:48 AM
Monday, October 21, 2013
The first auction the Farmer ever took me to was, as he described it, “the only culture in this town.” To be sure, the Finnerty auction on Friday nights was an evening of entertainment, for people from all walks of life.
That Friday back in 2006 we walked in and I first noticed a huge section of books. Boxes and boxes of books. I could hear Ken from his platform: “There’s only one thing that gives me the s**ts more than green apples, and that is books.” He begged us to take them off his hands. But I was distracted by another discovery. There, in the back corner, was a five foot print of a Klimt painting.
“Uh oh. Don’t tell me you like that,” my future husband said.
“I can hear it speaking to me,” I responded.
The twisting figures and vibrant colours seemed to jump off the canvas. The art looked so out of place in that old warehouse, surrounded by worn farmhouse furniture. It belonged with me.
My date said if he could, he would try to get it for me, but only if it went for less than $20.
I had to wait until the very end of the auction to get a chance at the painting. I watched as the antique dealers from
Quebec who frequented the sale started to
drift out of the building. Good, go, I
thought. Finally I was left to compete with just a half dozen people, and none
of them had taken a second look at the painting. One of the workers carried my
painting up to the stage. I’ll never forget what the auctioneer said next.
“So, here’s a painting,” he said. “Look at the colours. A lot of work went into this.”
A lot of work went into this?? It’s a Klimt, for Pete’s sake! I smiled and hoped the other people in the room were equally unfamiliar with the art.
Ten minutes later it was mine. For as many dollars. The next trick was wrapping it carefully in a blanket so it wouldn’t get scuffed in the back of the Farmer’s truck. He delivered me and my painting to my townhouse, where I lived until we were married in 2007. After I became his wife, he threatened to hang my Klimt in the barn. He was never a fan.
The next auction I went to was at Leo’s Sale Barn in Greely. My new husband and I were in the market for a Black Angus or two. We toured the barns before the auction and picked out a couple of nice ones. When their number came up, we prepared ourselves to bid. The bidding started at our maximum, then skyrocketed over $1000. Yikes. We had to settle for a couple of less-than-glamorous Herefords. The Farmer was not thrilled with the outcome and to this day he takes out his disappointment on my girls, nicknaming them “Ugly Betty” and “Ugly Ginger”. I’ll admit they aren’t the prettiest bovines in the world but they do have personalities and I love them.
Last week I went to my second Ritchie Brothers farm equipment auction. I had been to one before with my husband, where we were just spectators. This time, I was sent with an agenda. How he imagines I can come home from a farm auction with a party tent when I can’t even make it back from the hardware store with the right air filter, I don’t know. I studied the item online before the auction. I agreed the 20’ x 40’ tent was exactly what we needed for our annual farm party. The Farmer couldn’t come with me, because he is also a professor and was due in class at the time the tent would be up for bids. I enlisted a friend to help me – someone who was very familiar with auctions – Jim Perry.
I had a number in my head, and made sure Jim knew it so he wouldn’t blow my budget. The Farmer figured the tent would be well worth $300 when that is the usual rental price for a weekend. Well, we might have misjudged it by a bit. Bidding started at $500, and rose to $1000 in a heartbeat. I grabbed my friend’s bidding arm and shoved it down to his side. “Ho-lee!” I said, backing away from the action. That tent sold for $2500.
The next time I hear about an auction, I think I’ll stay home. This old heart can’t handle the excitement.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 5:42 AM
Friday, October 11, 2013
I was passing by the bathroom the other night when the sound of whispering – in Chinese – caught my ear.
“Hey guys. That’s a bathroom, not a party room. Only one person allowed in there at a time.” And I continued on my way down the hall.
Five minutes later I passed by again and noticed they were still locked in the bathroom.
“Okay, John, come on out and leave Jerry alone in there, will ya?” These guys spend every waking moment in the same room, it seems, but enough is enough already.
“No! Jerry is cutting my hair!” John hollered through the closed door. I tried the doorknob, and it was unlocked.
“Jerry is not qualified to cut hair. Stop that right now,” I advised.
I had to stifle a giggle when John emerged from the bathroom, his bangs chopped on an angle over his eye and one side of his head trimmed to the scalp.
“Ok, tomorrow after school we are going to get your hair cut properly,” I declared, wondering if the poor guy owned a hat.
Twenty-four hours later we walked into First Choice. John spent the first few minutes examining hairstyling implements and letting his stylist know which ones she would be permitted to use on his head. Jerry flipped through a style book, exclaiming at the flippy, wavy haircuts. He has poker-straight hair. We all want what we cannot have.
I commend the stylists on their ability to follow the boys’ direction, because they managed to somehow communicate in their broken English exactly what they wanted – and it turned out really nice for both of them. After the finishing touches (John wanted no hair gel; Jerry wanted to blow-dry his own hair), John hears water running in the next room.
“What’s that?” he asked. I explained it was the shampoo room.
“I want that,” he announced, sauntering into the back room and settling himself at the sink. The stylist looked at me.
“Well, I guess now that you’ve styled his hair so nicely, he wants it washed,” I explained. And of course Jerry decided he needed his washed too. Those are two very patient women in that salon. I’m sure they will see us again. In about 6 weeks, or less.
With all of the Kung Fu going on in my house, I figured the boys needed an outlet for their energy. I suggested bringing them in to Douvris for some martial arts. I encouraged them to go for a run down the road. Finally they decided they needed to buy bicycles. We found a pair of mountain bikes at Canadian Tire, and despite the fact that John says his is broken (he is not yet comfortable with the braking system), they seem to be doing the trick. Every night after school the boys strap on their helmets and head out for a race down the dirt road. Sometimes they ride their bikes out the gate into the back pasture. They are mountain bikes, after all. They want the full experience. An hour later they return, huffin’ and puffin’ and sweaty. And much less likely to spend the evening kicking and whalloping each other.
The final ‘first’ of the week was the boys’ first Canadian house party. A group of new friends invited them over for movies and snacks. I decided I would drive them over myself, so I could gauge the safety of the situation and verify that no alcohol would be involved. I knew the parents, so figured things wouldn’t get too far out of hand. My mind did briefly entertain visions from an old movie, in which a Chinese exchange student is initiated to the all-American house party and ends up passed out on the front lawn the next morning. Thankfully, that did not happen to my boys. They returned home quietly as I slept and were still asleep when I left for work before the sunrise this morning.
At least I think they are in there. Perhaps I should go home and check.
Next item on the ‘firsts’ list: Hallowe’en costumes.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 7:12 AM