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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Here's a challenge: SHOP LOCAL

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 U.S. 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 Ottawa? 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! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Remembrance Day means a little more today.

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 Reuben 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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In which Cody slips his collar and runs like the wind.

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.