Cardinal O’Brien

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, head of the Catholic church in Scotland; resigned over allegations of inappropriate behaviour. Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation on Feb. 18, just short of his intended departure on March 13 – his 75th birthday. Dare I say; there seems to be a trend developing in the Catholic Church.

These “run for the border” antics have me pondering. It isn’t that it’s happening; that’s old news. What really bothers me is that the same rule of law should apply to them as everyone else. Monumental heartbreak, shattered lives, and broken trust are swept under the mat; as if the victims didn’t matter. Men of God slip out the back door, and we all look the other way.

Apparently the “church” is on to something. In these politically correct times confession remains the accepted path to redemption, I doubt that the irony will ever dawn on the faithful. Thanks to our social media world, the confessional is open for all to see. The holy water gets too hot – jump out of the pot on CNN and all is right in the world –  you’re only human.  Zero punishment, all is forgiven – right?

I can’t help but laugh. For some strange reason it makes me think of Ted Haggard . the evangelist who strayed when attacked by homosexual demons. Poor Ted, he cried and cried – rather publicly I might add, upon losing his ministry;  his livelihood  down the toilet, stoic wife at his side – we give him a reality show. Actually paid him for the right to roll film as he re-builds his cash cow out of a barn on his sprawling estate.

I realize that Ted didn’t prey on followers, and can not be compared to Cardinal O’Brien’s path of demise. The point I’m trying to make is that we need to re-evaluate the kid glove extended to matters of God.  Every one of us who accepts this ridiculous, hypocritical double standard, is responsible for  the God card being played as a “get out of jail free” card.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

My First Award

I’m certain now; there is no better medicine than waking from your sick-bed to find you have been nominated for a Liebster Award. Many thanks to Mrs P  her thoughtful and interesting perspectives at Destination Unknown are words all of us should not only read, but apply to our own lives. I value the comments and insights Mrs. P posts on my blog, and truly feel honored.

This award stuff is new to me. The purpose is to pass along blogs with less than 200 followers so others can discover worthy wordpressers that deserve a read. As Mrs. P explained to me, a bloggers chain letter. It comes with some rules. First – the nominee must list 11 random facts about themselves, then answer the 11 questions posed by their award fairy. When that’s done – nominate 11 bloggers you follow who have less than 200 followers, and come up with 11 new questions for them to answer. Finally – contact them with the pat on the back.


So here goes, eleven random facts about notestoponder –

1. I’ve been happily married for almost 32 years, with 3 children.

2. Symmetry makes me crazy and I group in three’s and fives.

3. My kids call me “the MOST” ( Master Of Small Talk )

4. My favorite scent is sagebrush after it rains.

5. Love South Park, but try as I might The Simpsons does nothing for me.

6.The jury is out on ancient aliens, but firmly believe in Atlantis and civilizations lost.

7. I’ve found a tampon for Beyonce, told Robert Plant to find some manners, talked for half an hour with Joe Cocker clad only in his boxer shorts, helped Elton John get dressed, drank till the wee hours of the morning with Tina Turner, hidden a groom from his bride on their wedding night after a date with a hooker gone terribly wrong – just a few of the numerous reasons I love working in the hospitality business.

8. One of my earliest WTF moments was getting “the strap” in elementary school for pushing a boy over the edge of a gully after he put Ex-Lax in my sandwich.

9. Dogs over cats, though I wish my boxer would stop eating squirrels.

10. I’m fearless until you put a snake in front of me – I did however allow my husband to catch a garter snake my kids wanted as a pet. Mrs. Slithers promptly had 11 babies.

11. I don’t like chocolate.

This is fun. It may be my weakened state getting over the flu, but I feel like I’m doing homework again. Onward to my 11 questions. I cut and pasted them; and swear Mrs. P only asked 10 so I’ll make up number 11.

  1. If you could see any historic landmark or artefact, what would it be? Not a fair question for an ancient history addict; when pushed – would have to say Puma Punku.
  2. Do you speak more than one language? I wish and try, but like math, languages elude me.
  3. What is the strangest food you ever ate? Bear liver and it was nasty.
  4. If you were standing at the front door of the place you live in, looking outside, what direction would you be facing? (North, South, East or West) South
  5. Have you ever played in a band or musical group? No, but I sing and dance every day.
  6. What is the longest distance you have ever gone to satisfy a craving for a treat? 40 miles for a Big Mac in the days before my hometown had a McDonalds.
  7. What creature from the animal kingdom gives you the creepy crawlies?SNAKES!
  8. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you accomplish that? Strange as this may sound – I honestly never gave it any thought. I wanted my life to find me; and it did.
  9. Where were you working when you got your first paycheck? Picking cherries on our orchard in Penticton.
  10. Is there something that you enjoy doing that would surprise the people who know you best? Oh man, not fair! Answering that one is like letting the cat out of the bag.
  11. (This is my question) Why did you start blogging? It was a Mother’s Day present from my daughter. She set up my wordpress site because she thought I needed an outlet. She was so right.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE ……..My nominees –

I confess that it is possible a couple of my nominees have more than 200 follows. Being somewhat lacking in computer skills if follows aren’t ablaze on home or about pages, I’m at a loss to find them. I like these blogs, and would have considered it cheating to hastily follow blogs on the spot just because they had under 200 follows.

Now for the questions –

1. If you could have lived in any other time, where and when would it be?

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

3. Do you watch the Oscar’s?

4. What was your first WTF moment?

5. Do you think Christopher Columbus discovered America?

6.Have you ever regretted your vote in an election?

7. Should voting be mandatory?

8. Are Reddit rules a little too harsh?

9. Have you ever flown a kite?

10. Would you drop everything and jump at a chance to travel into space?

11. Have you ever seen an aurora?

Whew! Almost done – all that’s left is to notify my nominees. Taking my cue from that cheeky Mrs. P, I’m going to sneak a couple of blogs over 200 followers in under the radar.

Food Poisoning or Flu?

I’m pondering the sickest I’ve been in years Went to bed Thursday night feeling fine, woke up around 5 AM drenched in sweat. Shaking like a newborn kitten, I somehow made my way to the bathroom. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for that many fluids to come out of one body. I must have passed out as two hours had evaporated by the time I made my way back to bed.

I wrote this last paragraph hours ago, unable to type another word. Food poisoning or flu; I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Swine Flu

AR 1678

Recent cosmic events leave my hoping more eyes have been opened to ponder the skies above. My enthusiasm for space weather should not be misinterpreted as fear, dread, or doomsday hype. Rather; something to view as scientific fact. Space has weather systems that effect our planet just as the jet stream or ocean currents.

Our sun packs a punch that could lead to a pretty bad time.I cite the Carrington event and Bastille Day event till blue in the face – most people have no idea what I’m talking about. Air-planes regularly change course to avoid solar radiation, radio and cell phone signals are the first weak link at the mercy of geo-magnetic energy, and auroras dance to the beat of solar drums.

Sunspot AR 1678 didn’t exist a few days ago, but in the past 48 hours has mushroomed to a behemoth 6 times wider than earth. NASA predicts a 45% chance of M-class flares, and 15% of an X-class flare in the next 24 hours. Solar wind is blustery at over 400 Km/second.  The wind alone will be responsible for incredible light shows for those lucky enough to live in the Northern Hemisphere. Expect magical Northern Lights fuelled by magnetic blasts from the sun.

I don’t understand why space weather has been delegated to the realm of science fiction. I believe this science fact should be basic education; reported by weathermen on the six o’clock news. I’m getting tired of the rolled eyes and the dismissive “that’s interesting” any time I open my mouth on the subject.

Preparing for earthquakes and other natural disasters are second nature. They are unavoidable – accepted as a fact of life. An earth directed X-class flare should be no different. Equally inevitable, and just as devastating.

Active Region 1678 has grown quickly over a 2 day period, Feb. 19-20, 2013.

AR 1678 – NASA

Small Towns

ÖI thought I grew up in a small town.  By big city standards; it was a blip on the map. Yet at 20,000 residents, a thriving metropolis compared to an actual small town.

I’ve been in Battleford, Saskatchewan for the past few days. The official web site for the town lists three must sees on their “attractions” list. First – the water tower; admittedly decorated quite festively in lights that must have been strung for Christmas. Second – the greenhouse (not too sure about this one; perhaps a place to grow tomatoes year round) Third – a monument built to celebrate the spot the Olympic torch for the 2010 winter Olympics stopped on it’s run across Canada.

My sister lives in an incredible old renovated farm house overlooking a lovely river valley. An island in the river, directly below her house boasts five tagged moose. This is extremely exciting, we’ve looked for those moose every day.

Walk in the other direction from her house and you find yourself picking along a few sleepy streets of aging war time homes, dotted with tired two story relics of days gone by. The Queen’s Hotel is next; and yes – it looks exactly as it does in this picture from the turn of the last century. While the saggy, pealing exterior of this once practical prairie inn, show the 100 odd years of hope – fresh dreams grace the crooked steps in the form of the new Korean immigrant owner. A hand painted sign declares Korean food is now available, not at a loss for improvements; the drive-thru liquor sales are something to behold. Despite the promise presented on another carefully hand painted sign, drive-thru is a relative term. You align your car tires with deep ruts carved in snow, bump your way along the width of the building; stopping at a back entrance. In hindsight “drive-thru” in the depths of the prairie winter; simply means you leave your vehicle running as you hop out and knock on the heavy wooden door. Liquor is sold; in a blink you’re back in your toasty car, navigating a sharp turn onto the deserted street.

As fun as that might sound, the essence lies within. We arrived around 10 PM on a Wednesday night. Just as we walked up, four men exited the bar. Stopping in their tracks; as if we were apparitions, one found his voice to ask if they should come back inside. Our polite ” no thank you” crushed a momentary spike of masculine bravado – they trudged off as we entered the completely empty bar. My sister has lived here for years; quick to point out, this is a dangerous place on weekends, I take it with a grain of salt as we down our beer, watching the lone female employee play pool with the owner’s son.

When my sister informed us that another hotel and bar was just up the street, we paid our tab, and braced against the night’s chill with giddy excitement. I never dreamed our little walk would turn into a small town adventure. She happily pointed out the “opera house”, proudly explaining it was being renovated into an arts centre.

Battleford Opera House

As we made our way up the street to the Windsor, it occurred to me that the only people we had encountered in the past hour were the four men as we entered the Queen’s bar, the bartender, and the pool playing son.Approaching the Windsor my sister explained it was owned by the same Korean family.Instantly the sign outside offering drive-thru liquor sales made sense.

In fairness to the Queen’s – a picture from the same era.

The Windsor boasts an illuminated drive-thru off sales sign, what’s more – once we bellied up to the bar the patrons grew from two to five. Minding our own business was simple at first. On some level we were pleased not to be alone in the bar, for myself ;  I was starting to think it was a ghost town.  Isolation  was the poetry bouncing around my head when the drinks started to appear on our table. Apparently women at the Windsor, Wednesday night was a big deal. Looking back, it was like a script from David Lynch. We thanked the man who bought us a round and continued talking. Who were we kidding. The bartender brings over a tray of shots, he called them “slutty cowgirls” – butterscotch schnapps, cherry whiskey, and whipped cream (or milk he tells us if you have no cream) Yikes – we counted five. Three of us, the bartender, plus “Wayne” who has decided to follow his money to our table.

Wayne wasn’t much older than my daughter, and half the age of my happily married sister and myself. He seemed harmless enough; telling us he couldn’t make it home that night because the roads were closed due to extreme winter conditions. It had the ring of truth – I understood he was bored and lonely, so we made a unanimous, unspoken decision to be nice ladies rather than stuck up bitches. A nice theory as long as all parties are on the same page.

While certainly not universal to small town loneliness, alcohol fuels all sorts of situations. Wayne starts grabbing my leg, then my ass. OK Wayne, enough! We ask the bartender not to let him buy any more rounds, but it seems the bartender is bored as well. Round after round appear on the table. By now we are beyond drunk. Wayne has a creepy look in his eye, and we’re five blocks on foot from my sister’s house.

There isn’t a dramatic ending to this story. Much like a sleepy little town, we slip away, though I honestly can’t remember dodging Wayne. I remember walking down ice ruts in the middle of the street, and I know for a fact that in four hours and two bars we saw a total of  nine people. We didn’t see a moving car, hear sounds from the homes we passed, or so much as a dog bark.

Battleford has a population of around 4000. Cross the river, you’re in North Battleford, with roughly 15,000 residents. Follow the highway and it could be any small town in North America. Gas stations, motels, and a Walmart sprawl amongst car lots, fast food, and farm equipment sales. Venture off the highway, your first block encompasses something my sister calls the “golden triangle” . An area bordered by the RCMP station, liquor store, and courthouse – need I say more? Personally, I like the old movie theatre. Pawn shops, bingo halls, and lonely retail relics line the dreary street.


It takes a certain fortitude to stay the course in a small town. I envy the ability to exist in a world without constant distraction or stimulation. Money isn’t flashed about, as most people don’t have a lot. Fashion is practical; warmth wins over style – truly liberating. Most astounding, the “arts” take centre stage.

I was there to help my sister sew dance costumes. She works for Dance Saskatchewan, on the side she makes costumes for what seems like every dance school in the province.Dance is as much a part of Saskatchewan as hockey is to Canada. Without exception, every spot on the map has a school of dance. I’ve officially mastered the tu-tu, yet despair for the fact we only completed 100 or so of the over 500 costumes facing delivery by the middle of March.


My greatest pleasure was being in a place where stars shine brighter than street lights. Sadly uncooperative, the weather allowed only one fleeting moment of the northern lights. It didn’t matter; endless skies, sunsets to rival any I’ve seen in the world, and ice fog more than made up for it.

Small towns are alive, their hearts beat to a different drummer. Life is never simple, the Battleford’s have plenty of problems; the “golden triangle” attests to the brick wall many residents face. That said – I found peace in a week away from the plastic life of the city.


Notes is Away…..

I’ve made my way to Canadian winter .Snuggled inside a toasty old farmhouse –  anticipating snow and high winds overnight; I’m like a child on Christmas Eve. Peeking through the curtains every few minutes, straining to part darkness and receive the first furtive snow flakes.

Aurora watching has taken a back seat, though we were able to spot their faint whisper last night.

Extraordinary Ordinary

Extraordinary Ordinary

I live in a place known for rain, a Canadian city released from the grip of old man winter in exchange for grey days. Occasional snow storms break the monotony, sunny days are few and far between.Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognized affliction; a form of depression caused by lack of sunlight.Winter is predictably gloomy, yet short – over in the blink of an eye.

My eye sees beauty in all that grey. Overcast skies are a gift, offered in exchange for stoically splashing through puddles. Ponder that gift of sight, and accept the opportunity to view the ordinary as extraordinary. Discover our world beyond sun splashed postcard expectations, and you’ll discover layers that expand horizons.

Click on the link above – extraordinary ordinary.


Salmon mural

Hey DA14, Meet Apophis

On Feb. 15, comet DA14 will come within 21,000 miles of earth. In cosmic terms; close enough to hear it whiz by. While not particularly large, at 150 odd feet, it could do considerable damage. Remember – a beach ball sized meteor could make a crater almost 20 feet deep and over 60 feet wide. There is no chance DA14 will collide with earth, at least not this time around.

Countless close calls populate our fragile existence. On April 13, 2029 Comet Apophis, at well over 500 feet; will come within a projected 19,400 miles of earth. This one is large enough to obliterate a major city In November of this year comet ISON;  not close  at 2 million miles, yet shining many times brighter than the full moon; will dazzle the naked eye.

I wish more of us pondered the cosmos. Governed by nothing but science; physics is the universal God. The United Nations itself, mandates that celestial bodies are for the benefit of all mankind Unfettered by politics, God, or back room handshakes; the universe is free to operate purely on science. No doubt the concept is lost on fundamentalists; the irony being that it could quite possibly be a space rock that bites us in the ass one day.

As we squabble like grade schoolers on the playground, squander our resources, and  throw tantrums over religious righteousness – a big ass space rock strikes me as poetic justice. Not a punishment from God; simply a cosmic spanking, unleashed when orbits eventually collide.