Social Claustrophobia

There is just something about being part of particular types of social groups that I find claustrophobic. I am not saying that these social structures are wrong, or a bad idea necessarily; I am saying they do not suit me at all.

Groups that are formed for profit have never been a good fit for me, unless I am in it for profit. Profit is a particular type of game, and if I am going to play profit, then I will ruthlessly attempt to win that profit; which is the object of the game. Since I am generally not very interested in profit, this game holds little to no appeal for me. As a pawn in the game of profit, I find it difficult to relax, and let myself be used. It doesn’t matter how appealing the public relations promotion for the group is, it has always been a bad fit for me. I sense the profit making aspect, feel involved in a game, and begin to play… ruthless group participants are not really what the profit seekers had in mind, it does not end well, and it has always ended. I avoid groups formed by profit seeking entities.

Groups based on “filling a need” from the top down have never been a good fit for me. Top down organizing is seldom, if ever, effective in the short-term, and almost always a failure in the long-term. “Filling a need” groups are almost always based on a “them”, the clients/patients/recipients, and “us” the educated/morally-superior/in-the-know social engineers. I have been on both sides of this equation, mostly on the “us” side. These social groups are usually very short term, as they provide no lasting connections or roots in community; at their very best they have managed to facilitate a few loyal friendships between participants, friendships that outlast the group.

All of these groups need participants, and there is always some kind of pressure to remain in the group, whether or not it is adding anything beneficial to your life. Contact with these groups is like having a burr caught on your pant leg. One must go through the usual prickly extraction process.

I prefer groups based on loose clusters of affiliation, with like-spirited people. This type of group tends to accommodate difference with relative ease, and is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of those who belong to it. Since the participants are not needed for the motives of profit, professional career advancement, obtaining funding, or any type of social engineering, people participate when and if they so desire, and in so doing the group evolves organically over time.

Two groups that I visited when I lived alone here at Mist Cottage last winter, just to see what they were like, taking a benefit-of-the-doubt sort of approach, continue their attempts to entice me into participating, even though their structures do not work for me, and I have made it obvious that I have no lingering interest in their organizations. They don’t seem to care about my decisions, they feel they know much better than I do what is good for me, and somehow, miraculously, what they determine I need promotes what they want. Like burrs on my pant leg, I pull out the odd barb and keep moving forward in my own life.

Iris the trailer needs new tires. The present tires look OK, but they are cracked and do not hold air very well. Attila is the super-shopper at our house. He loves numbers, thinking about them, crunching them, playing with them. He loves saving money. We like to shop locally, so we chose Canadian Tire as the core of our strategy. We have Canadian Tire credit cards, which pay us a 4% bonus on items we purchase at Canadian Tire, and a bonus of 1% when we use the cards at other establishments. Yesterday Canadian Tire was giving away $50 cash cards with every $200 purchase. Attila decided it was time to buy the new trailer tires. We bit the bullet and purchased the tires, attained our $50 cash card, and used the $51 bonus on my credit card to reduce the bill for the tires. Today we took the $50 cash card back to Canadian Tire and bought the lug nuts we need for the new tire rims, a gallon of exterior rust paint for Iris’ frame, 20 paper yard waste bags, and four orange pool noodles, the amount owed on all these items was 0$ as we used our $50 cash card to purchase it.

Then we headed over to the grocery store where we bought grapes on sale, and 8 loaves of rye bread at half price (before their expiry date!). We collected points from the grocery store with our grocery store points card, then I paid the bill with the Canadian Tire credit card, gaining points on that card as well.

That is how we shop. Attila is the master mind behind the strategy, and our standard of living is considerably enhanced through his efforts.

The pool noodles, by the way, are for the guy lines on the awning when we are camping in Iris. After my bad fall almost a year ago, I am very conscious of hazards, and tripping on a guy line would be something I would do. The orange pool noodles will make those thin ropes very visible, and hopefully prevent me from tripping over them and hurting myself.

It rained today, so we decided to stay home rather than visit the Rideau Camp. Attila separated and transplanted some lilacs, along the property line at the side of the yard. He also chopped out a tree growing into our fence across the back of the yard. He has more transplanting to do, some lungwort and some day lilies. The lungwort can wait because it is in full and glorious bloom, and the day lilies are just peeking up out of the ground.

When we first moved into the country house we had nine huge windows to cover. Three of them were in the family room, and for those rooms I picked up a bunch of cloth shower curtains at the dollar store. I liked the pattern, and they were long enough to cover the windows, and ready to hang. That was around 12 years ago, and here are those same shower curtains adorning the window in the front bedroom. This is the only window at the front of the house that I can stand near enough to see out of, it is still a bit crowded in here.

This isn’t the final decor, but a temporary measure until we get around to gutting the room, replacing the wiring, insulation, the window, and the floor. When all that is complete, we will buy (or I will sew) our permanent curtains. We are a long way away from working on the bedrooms though, this summer it is the garden shed that is getting a makeover, and we hope to move a lot of the garage contents into the newly renovated garden shed, then some of the contents of the basement into the garage, then some of the contents of the main floor into the basement. It is like playing dominoes. We are living small.

Shower curtains front bedroom

Worldly Distractions


Date: 8:00 AM EDT Friday 22 April 2016
Condition: Light Rainshower
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 10.3°C
Dewpoint: 8.7°C
Humidity: 90%
Wind: S 17 km/h


“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Eleanor Roosevelt
1884 – 1962

Note: It is gratifying to know that Eleanore Roosevelt would have received the same bad employment review that I did, criticized for always doing the right thing. I may not have been acceptable to my boss, but it seems I am in good company.

Fruity Hint

Sometimes mistakes can yield surprising results. This morning I was half asleep when I prepared my mug of coffee. I reached into the refrigerator, on autopilot, took out the cranberry juice instead of the milk, and poured it into my coffee. Shaking my head at my distracted state, I put the juice back into the refrigerator, pulled out the milk and maple syrup, my usual condiments for coffee, and added the usual amounts. The coffee was lovely, the fruity hint was very pleasant.

After a series of sunny mild days, today began with cloud cover, which dissipated over the course of the morning to bring us back to another sunny day. It is cooler than it has been, but still well above freezing.

Having spent the last few days cleaning Iris, other projects beckon. The curtains in Iris need tie backs, so it is time to get out the fabric scrap tote and rummage around for something nice, in yellow, because the formica table top is yellow, and because yellow is bright. I like bright.

The list of things needed from the fabric store is getting longer. Curtain clips are needed for the new dining area curtains, which are currently functional but hanging in a decidedly bizarre manner. Decorative binding is needed for the sleeve ends on my 23 year old parka, the edges are now fraying, I’ve left it too long.

It is time to get back out there for my daily walks, an activity that was suspended while cleaning Iris the trailer. It is wonderful to enjoy watching the birds enjoy themselves.

Last January Attila applied for a different job where he works, and this morning he was interviewed. Next there will be a battery of tests to pass, then who knows, there is no timeline on the process. The outcome is merely interesting, as things are fine just the way they are, no changes are necessary to enjoy life.

Volunteer Work

Next week wraps up some of the volunteer work I have been involved with for the last eight months. It has been challenging, interesting, and low profile. If I said more about it, the low profile aspect to it would be spoiled. I value the low profile aspect of the work. I was very happy to have the opportunity to be involved with it, as it tapped some of my talents, that have gone unused since I left the academy.

The Rideau Camp

I have been thinking about the wealth that our Rideau Camp has brought into our lives. Attila and I both value time alone in the bush, we both find it soothing and rejuvenating. At the Rideau Camp there are just the two of us, and although we touch base with each other frequently, most of our time is spent on solitary activities that allow us to be completely alone in the forest. There is nothing quite like being alone with yourself in the bush, and since we own the land, there are no other people to interrupt the peacefulness of it. Our spirits are much calmer for having such a haven. It is a Waldeny experience, if one needs to ground it in a literary sense.

The Rideau Camp is unlike the country house, which was in the bush, our Rideau Camp has no buildings to maintain, nor are the neighbours near enough to be seen, although occasionally they are heard. We need only enjoy our Rideau Camp, much as Attila and I enjoyed the bush when we were children.

Preparing Iris for a stay at the Rideau Camp is fun, and a much smaller project than owning a cottage in the country, particularly one that needs to be heated all winter. This winter Iris will be all tucked up in the yard at Mist Cottage, sitting quietly without needing attention until next spring. But I am getting ahead of myself here, we are still looking forward to Iris’ maiden voyage.

Bedroom Curtains

Our old windows are covered by old curtains, sort of. The living room hosts the curtains left by the previous owners at the country house when we bought it. I recently shortened them to fit the living room windows, and they will do nicely until we replace the windows. The front bedroom hosted heavily lined blackout curtains, that were custom made for the family room in the huge home I owned with my first husband. They are incredibly well made, almost 40 years old and every bit as nice as they were the day they were made, but not quite so stylish now as they were then. The back bedroom curtains are inexpensive, bright and light, cotton dollar store shower curtains, which I like very much. Attila sleeps during the day in the back bedroom, so the nice and light aspect wasn’t really working in there. I decided to hang the blackout curtains in the room where Attila sleeps during the day, and the bright light shower curtains in the front bedroom where they would let in the morning sun. Attila moved the heavy boxes blocking the windows out of my way and I was off to the races. An hour later the curtains had been switched, and we now have a more functional living space.

We have reached a plateau in our renovation and purging. We really cannot move forward until the garden shed is repaired and made functional. The basement and the garage are in a state of semi-chaos, waiting for the garden shed to open up more storage space. when the dust has settled after the garden shed is updated, which may take the whole summer/fall season, we will have to decide what project we want to work on next.

Genealogy Book

I keep thinking that I need to get working again on my genealogy book. The devil is in the details, and there are oodles of details. It took a very long time to find a way to prepare for print, the images related to just one person, My Great Aunt Mary Ann.

Currently I am working on preparing a timeline table of my Great Great Grandfather’s life, and the life of my Great Great Great Uncle, so that I can demonstrate why I theorize they are one and the same person, and to emphasize why I cannot definitively state that they are same person. This fellow is a lot of work, and none of the four or five other researchers in my family line have found any documents to pin down who he was. The female researchers are much more open to the possibility that he was the same man, while the male researchers are a lot more reluctant to entertain thoughts that he may have been, since that would mean he was a bigamist. I tend to think I am right about him being the same man, because Great Great Grandpa surrounded his existence with mystery, no documents exist to tell us about where he came from, who his parents were, where he died, or where he was buried. If I were a bigamist that is exactly the approach I would take. The family story told to generations is that he was murdered for his money, but even that story is fraught with conflicting evidence in the records. I have the data collated for this table, but fitting it onto a printed page is taking some time. After that the table is ready for print, the discussion about it needs to be cohesively written.

That is just two people out of the hundreds that will be described in the book. They are the most controversial though, it will be easier going when Great Great Grandfather Alexander, and his daughter Mary Ann have been dealt with to my satisfaction.

And then of course there are the references, which are formatted in a higgledy piggledy way, using different conventions. This will not do, I am trying to rewrite them as I go along, but there are hundreds and hundreds of them to deal with, and this will take time.

I tend to work on this difficult beginning to the book in short spurts, taking long breaks to think about the approach I am taking, and to search for data that may have been missed.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 10:00 AM EDT Thursday 21 April 2016
Condition: Mostly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 11.1°C
Dewpoint: -1.6°C
Humidity: 41%
Wind: SE 7 km/h


“There were many selfish people about these days, people who seemed not to care if they scraped the cars of others or bumped into people while waking on the street. Mma Ramotswe knew that this was what happened when towns became bigger and people became strangers to one another; she knew too that this was a consequence of increasing prosperity, which, curiously enough, just seemed to bring out greed and selfishness.
Life was far better, though Mma Ramotswe, if we knew who we were. In the days when she was a schoolgirl in the Mooched the village in which she had been born, everybody had known exactly who you were, and they often knew exactly who your parents, and your parents’ parents, had been…”
The No. 1 Detective Agency Series, Book 6, The Company of Cheerful Ladies
Alexander McCall Smith

Roof Vent

We set the mouse traps with peanut butter last night, placing one of them in the kitchen sink. Sure enough, when we got up this morning there was a dead mouse in the trap. I think we may have more mice, so the traps are going out again and again until weeks go by without catching any mice.

It was like summer here at Mist Cottage today! Attila spent the day removing the old roof vent on Iris the trailer, and installing a new one. It was a long, painstaking procedure, as each step needed to be done very carefully to ensure a good seal. While Attila worked on Iris, I raked pine cones from the front yard. The pine tree in our front yard is shedding a lot of pine cones this year, so it was a big job.

It was nice to be out of doors for the day. One of the things I enjoy about our little neighbourhood here at Mist Cottage is chatting with the neighbours. I stopped my raking twice to chat with friendly neighbours, learning more about their lives and interests.

It was disappointing to hear our neighbour two doors down, a retired gentleman who is very fussy about his yard, dressing down the young father who lives next door to us. The young couple next door have their own way of looking at things, and they are often a bit messy about the yard. They do make some effort, the husband was out raking his back yard yesterday. But that was not good enough the young man’s other neighbour. We could hear the older man loudly criticizing the young man, who responded that he had done yard work yesterday. The fact that the young man offered a relatively polite response speaks well of his character; he owed the older man no response at all. It was sad to hear such silliness going on. Attila and I made a point of being friendly with the young couple a few hours later, when they were getting their sons into the car to go out somewhere.

We also managed to hang out a large load of laundry this morning, which dried completely by early evening. It makes for a lot less clutter in a small house when the drying lines are outside instead of inside.

And… we had the windows open for the first time this spring!

Attila’s project, removing the old roof vent. A big hole was left when the roof vent came out, and Attila took advantage of that. He stood on a stool and stood up through the hole in the roof to remove the old butyl tape and caulking, and clean the area.
Roof vent opening
The end result, a new roof vent for Iris. Now she can be left without the tarp draped over her to protect her from the rain. It will be much easier for me to get in and out of her now, to continue my cleaning project.
Roof vent installed
Our Hoya is in bloom. The Hoya does not bloom often. Although I find the flowers quite beautiful, I do not care for the strong scent.
Hoya bloom
The Lungwort is in bloom in the front garden at Mist Cottage. I stop to look at it frequently when I am outside, blooming flowers are such a welcome sight.
At the Rideau Camp on Saturday I found these blooms in the forest, Mayflowers. My Mom used to send us out into the bush in the spring, to search for the first Mayflowers. It was always a time of great excitement.

Worldly Distractions


16°C (our thermometer read 22C)
Date: 5:00 PM EDT Sunday 17 April 2016
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.8 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 16.4°C
Dewpoint: 2.5°C
Humidity: 39%
Wind: S 20 km/h


“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”
Lewis Carroll
1832 – 1898


Friday, April 15, 2016


They came out of hiding yesterday evening at 6:00 p.m., and they loved me! We spent the day pulling brambles and draining wet areas at the Rideau Camp. At the end of a fruitful day of work, we were sitting around our campfire, when I noticed the first mosquito land on my hand. Then the rest of the gang followed, and I was surrounded. They paid no attention at all to Attila, just me. I was wearing dark clothing, a real no-no!

We pulled three wheelbarrow loads of brambles from the Rideau Camp yesterday. This is the time of year to do it, because the earth is soft enough to pull the roots out of the ground. The soil is heavy clay, and soon it will dry out enough that it will resemble rock.

We took a break mid afternoon to grill cheese sandwiches over the open campfire, then it was back to work. I remembered to bring the bread this time!

I tended the fire for much of the day, while pulling brambles, and Attila headed out into the bush to create a drainage system for some wet spots at the back of the property.

We have a lot of frogs in the wetland at the entrance to the property, and they were in fine voice all day. Occasionally they became quite loud and seemed excited. When Attila went out to the wetland to fetch a pail of water to put out the fire, he saw a muskrat in the wetland. How wonderful that we have a muskrat on our property!

So far we have seen a Blue Crane on the neighbouring property, a pair of Hawks soaring and hunting in the skies above us, and now a Muskrat hunting in our wetland.

We were also buzzed by a small pontoon airplane, flying quite low over the property. Summer, and summer activities are beginning. The plane was probably headed for the lake.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

This morning we found mouse droppings all around the kitchen sink. They had scoured the dirty dishes in the sink! We must remember to wash the dishes before we go to bed at night, even if there is only a plate and cup. The traps were set, but baited with seeds. We are switching to peanut butter in the traps.

Today the weather is warm enough to hang clothes outside to dry. What a welcome eventuality. Attila did a large load of his laundry early in the morning, and hung it out to dry for the day.

We were off bright and early this morning, headed for the Rideau Camp. I got the camp fire going, and Attila got right back to uprooting brambles. He removed three more wheelbarrow loads, which I burned slowly in campfire. We have a long way to go burning all the deadwood, piles up brush left by a bulldozer, and brambles. But since we are having fun, and there is no big rush to get it done, the job does not seem daunting.

While Attila was preparing our grilled cheese sandwiches for grilling, a new Cadillac SUV came driving up the driveway. The couple asked me if we were the people selling the property. They were quite disappointed that we were the people who just bought the property. It is kind of nice to know that someone else thinks that it is a nice property.

Just before we left for the day, Attila gathered another bag of garbage from along the creek. If we bring a bag of garbage home with us every time we are there, by the end of the summer we should have most of it cleared away.

The mosquitoes came out again this evening at the camp, but I was ready for them! I wore my permethrin coated shirt and pants and didn’t get one bite. Funny thing though, earlier in the day I felt something crawling on my neck and flicked it off, it was a moth. Later, as Attila and I were sitting at the campfire, he reached over and removed a small moth that was crawling on my neck. Apparently the moths love me.

We drove home into the sunset once more, arriving home hungry and tired… and very happy.

I had a note from my Mom this morning, she sounds fantastic! She is out and about a lot more now, gaining weight, and healing slowly. Now all we need is some nice hot summer weather to set her right!

Worldly Distractions


9°C (high of 16C predicted)
Date: 9:00 AM EDT Saturday 16 April 2016
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 103.3 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 8.5°C
Dewpoint: -2.7°C
Humidity: 45%
Wind: ENE 16 km/h


“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”
Jerry Chin


The day began with sunshine, which has since departed. The temperature is well above freezing, making the grey skies a lot less threatening. I managed to get out for my walk before the sun disappeared behind the clouds, it was lovely and mild, even the stiff wind was pleasant. By noon there were snowflakes drifting out of the sky, which melted on contact.

On Monday morning Attila found mouse droppings on the kitchen counter. The theory is that since all available food sources in the basement have been sealed up, the mouse/mice have ventured to the main floor of the house in search of sustenance.

Attila was inspired, nothing like mice running around in your kitchen to get the wind-up. Yesterday afternoon Attila gathered together the step ladder, multiple packages of steel wool, caulking, a mask, and a hat, and climbed up into the attic. After checking all around the chimney opening, a large gap was discovered on the far side of the chimney. The theory is that the mice are coming down through that gap, through the wall and down into the basement. It certainly smelled “mousey” in the attic. Within an hour the entire perimeter of the chimney was closed off with steel wool. No mice will be entering there in future.

There might be mice caught inside, if the entry/exit point is now blocked. I visited the local Canadian Tire store to pick up additional mouse traps, the reusable kind. We had been using glue traps, but they are so expensive now that they are not longer practical.

Last night before I went to bed, I filled the traps with seeds, and set them out where we had found mouse droppings. This morning the traps were empty. This is a good sign, but it is not definitive. For the next few weeks the traps will be set nightly, and if no mice are caught during this time, and the droppings do not reappear, we will assume we have solved the issue, at least for the moment.

This morning I dragged out my sewing equipment to continue working on the new dining area curtains. It is very slow going, the window area is large and it will take yards and yards of fabric to adequately cover them. A few weeks ago I pressed the long side raw edges. Today I finished the long side raw edges by stitching down the folds that had been pressed. It is tedious work, but the only way to get the curtains that I want. I still need cut the fabric, finish the short side raw edges, hem, and hang the curtains; all of that is for another day.

The Rideau Camp: An Issue When a previous owner put a driveway into the property, they cut off the natural drainage on either side of the driveway. This manmade wetland was the result. It has its own beauty, and the chirping frogs were wonderful to hear when we were there last weekend. But it is also a mecca for breeding mosquitoes! Attila worked on restoring the drainage system, but I doubt we will be able to completely drain this wet area. To control mosquitoes in this wetland we are considering the use of Mosquito Dunks, a Larvicide that will not affect other life forms, plant or animal. The expense may deter us though. We shall see.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 10:00 AM EDT Tuesday 12 April 2016
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 101.8 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 4.5°C
Dewpoint: -1.5°C
Humidity: 65%
Wind: WSW 23 km/h

“Genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum.”
Charles Spencer

I learned that this can be true, the hard way. I worked for a well known and respected individual, who during a performance review sited my greatest fault. She said, “You always do the right thing.”
To her this was a treacherous fault, which I found totally shocking, since we were working with a very vulnerable population. No matter how she appeared to the “public”, she had a very acute sense of presentation, I was exposed to the underbelly of the beast, and it wasn’t pretty. It reminded me once again, that it is what people do when they think no one will find out, that defines good character and true greatness.