Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Friday, June 3, 2022

Toddler Timing

For any of you who have children, are around children, or have heard of children, you know that their timing is the one thing about them that remains totally impeccable. Always.

Theirs is the voice you hear chanting, “I gotta go potty!” immediately after you’ve pulled onto the freeway.
The disembodied face that appears at your bedside just as you’ve dozed off.
The crash and the “Oh-oh. Mom!”, when you’ve got both hands kneading sticky bread.
When split-second timing is needed, the children in the immediate area are on it.
I have two examples:
My Eldest Son was sitting watching TV, his youngest daughter, aged nine months, perched on his lap. The two of them, with the rest of the family had been happily engrossed in ‘Arthur Christmas’. The credits were rolling and the sound of Justin Bieber singing a Christmas song filled the home. There was a pause in the music and Mr. Bieber could be heard, talking in the background. “It’s that time of year again! Time to let all of your problems go!”
At which point, said daughter, with accurate and impressive sound effect, let those pesky little problems go. Directly into her diaper.
Remember when I said, ‘engrossed’? I used that word deliberately.
My second example involves the same son, before he was married. Or a father.
But still involves children.
And timing . . .
Eldest Son was sitting in Sunday School class, discussing, with the other members of the group, the life of Paul. This man, an apostle of Jesus Christ, suffered many indignities and horrors to his person during his life. On occasion, he was dragged before local, and at times, high authorities.
At one point in his life, his captors hauled him up before King Agrippa.
The teacher introduced this significant ruler’s name in stentorian(real word!) tones.
His pronouncement was immediately followed by the loud scream of an infant seated with its parent in the back.
See? Timing.
The class broke up. Some 30 seconds later, order restored, the teacher grinned. “And that was Paul’s exact reaction!”
I don’t know how they do it.
The timing thing, I mean.
It’s a talent they are obviously born with.
Some of them maintain it throughout their lives . . .
I know as soon as I sink into a steaming hot bath, or start doing something sticky in the kitchen, that my daughter is going to telephone.
Timing. You know what I’m talking about . . .

Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Ugly Tourist: Conclusion


If you missed Part One, it is here!

See? Almost invisible.
Map-Impaired Tourist
These hapless souls are the ones standing on a corner peering at the street signs, while wrestling with an indecipherable, gigantic map that is desperately trying to be a kite.
The same ones you will see, two hours later, on another corner a block away, with the same map.
In the same wind.
And the same helpless, confused look on their faces.

“Harriet, I know we've been here before.  I remember this bakery.”
“Are you sure, Harry?  I don’t remember a bakery.  I don’t recognize anything!”
Harry then squints at the street sign.
Harry then turns the map upside down. 
And peers at the street sign again.
And at the bakery again.
“Just give me a minute.  I’ll figure this out.  What street is our hotel on again??”

The Know-it-All Tourist
 “Look, honey, your favorite perfume.  L’Air du Temps.  Look at the price!  It’s really cheap here.”
And suddenly a helpful, friendly third voice joins the conversation.  It is the Know-it-All tourist standing next to you who jumps in to show off his or her supposed knowledge about the country you are visiting.
Or anything else.
“Oh, yes! It’s because Greece is part of the European Union now, and they can get things from other countries in Europe really cheap.  That’s a marvellous French perfume.  L’Air du Temps.  That means Birds in Flight, you know.  I’ve been to France three times now . . . . . ”

The Obnoxious Tourist
 “Take this back!  This is . . . this is disgusting.”
The Obnoxious Tourist is rejecting his meal in a four-star restaurant.
As loudly as he can.  For the whole restaurant to hear.

“But sir,” objects the server in her faltering English, “eet is zackly what you order.”
“I didn’t order no #@&% rabbit-food crap like this!”
“Sir? Did you not order the horiatiki?”
“No, @#$%&*.  I ordered the @#$&% Greek salad!”
“But sir, that is what horiatiki means.  Greek salad.”
“Well, %$#*& it, why didn’t you tell me there were $%#$ black olives in it!  I hate olives!  They don’t make Greek salad like this back home.  Why don’t you @#$%& foreigners learn how to make it right!”

The Insensitive Tourist
 There are several sub-species in this category as well.
First is the Intellectually Insensitive Tourist, (as in just plain stupid).

“Sir? Sir! Sir, please don’t touch . . . Sir, please don’t climb on the statue!  Sir! Sir!? . . . . Security!!”

Next is the Socially Insensitive Tourist.
“Sir, this is a no-smoking area . . . .No, sir, that rule applies to everyone, not just to Greeks.”

And, there is always the Culturally Insensitive Tourist.

“Excuse me, sir, like the sign says, photography is not allowed in the Church . . . . well, sir, because it is a sacred place, sir . . . . well, maybe not to you, but it is to the local people, and out of respect . . . . How would you feel . . . . Oh, I see, well . . . er . . . Churches are places where millions of people go to worship . . . . “

The Invisible Tourist
 Alas, I must confess, we fall into this category.
We try hard to blend in.
Not to be Loud.
Or Insensitive.
Or Obnoxious.
Or Anglocentric.
We try desperately to learn a few phrases of the local language, and practice them rigorously.
We eat the local food.
And pretend hard that we omnivores really enjoy boiled octopus and eggplant mush.
We take the bus.  And the subway.  We refuse to be seen emerging from a taxi.
We are invisible.
At least, we would like to believe no one can tell that we are that most abominable of creatures, tourists.
But still, people know.
Somehow, they know.
They speak to us first in English.
How could they tell?
Maybe it’s the lobster-red, sunburned noses.
Maybe it’s the broad-brimmed sun hats we wear, out of mercy for our noses. 
The ones in which no self-respecting Greek would be caught dead.
I think I get it now. 
Maybe it’s the small Canadian flag.
Embroidered on our shirts. 
And the flag pins on our hats.
And the ten-pound camera hung unobtrusively around our necks.
And the brilliant whiteness of winter legs sticking out of really scary Bermuda shorts . . .

Maybe we're not so invisible after all . . .

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Ugly Tourist: Part One

We’re gearing up for it...


See? Almost invisible.
The word evokes many images – almost all of them negative – in the mind of anyone who is not one.  Yet, it cannot cease to amaze one, that we can despise the tourist in others, while adopting so many of those . . . er . . . interesting characteristics when on vacation ourselves.
My wife and I recently toured the islands of Greece.  I am an anthropologist by training, so invariably we spend a lot of time people-watching, as well as enjoying the sights and scenery. While overall it was a truly memorable and delightful trip, we inevitably encountered a variety of tourists, exhibiting a variety of ‘touristy’ characteristics, all of which we tried desperately to avoid, even though we were, technically, in the ranks.
I swear that what follows is an accurate representation of our observations of fellow tourists.

The Loud Tourist
This category of tourist has a number of sub-groups.
The first is The FogHorn TouristThis is the traveler who doesn't seem to mind announcing, at 100+ decibels, intimate details of their life to the entire world.

“But Henry, I’m sure I packed your hemorrhoid salve!  That’s just awful, to get hemorrhoids.  And on your birthday too!”
I've heard a lot of sad tales, but I've never heard of hemorrhoids appearing on someone’s birthday. I always thought they appeared somewhere else.

And another FogHorn, who told the following tale of woe :
“I was so sick! First I was throwing up.  My supper and everything! And then I had diarrhea all night! Oh, I tell you, Mildred, it was just awful!  I didn’t know which end was which!”
No comment.  I only hope that at half time, she switched ends.

Second in the Loud Tourist category is The Anglocentric Tourist.  This is the one who believes that any foreigner can understand English if it is spoken slowly, and loudly enough.

“Toi-let pa-per.  Toilet paper.  You know [insert largely obscene but mostly incomprehensible hand gestures here], TOILET paper.  In the BATHroom.  TOI-LLL-LET! TOI-LET-PA-PER! IT’S ALL OUT! IN THE TOI-LET!! [more incomprehensible hand gestures]”
One can only smirk when, at the end of this performance, the hotel clerk says, with a straight face and in Oxford English: “We’ll look after it right away, madam.”

The third sub-group in the Loud Tourist category is The Airhead Student Tourist.  This category consists of students fresh out of a college semester, who apparently are touring exotic lands for the first time.  They can be both Loud and Ugly, and for all their education, are seemingly under the impression that because they are in a non-English-speaking country, they are the only ones on the bus who actually speak English.
The following particular pair stood eight feet apart during a 45-minute bus ride, sharing their intimacies with – they thought – no one, again at 100+ decibels.

“They didn't check my ticket.  How do they know I paid?”
“Well, like, when I first came, I thought the same thing, so once I didn't buy a ticket, and the ticket inspector came and asked me, and I, like, totally freaked, and they hauled me down to the police station, and I was, like, totally hysterical, and then you know what?  Like, then I got my period, and it was just awful, a big mess, and I started crying, and they still fined me 65 Euros, and then they let me go, but on the way home, I was attacked . . . ”
After 20 minutes or so of this, the conversation turned to :
“I am so jealous of you, you've had so many loves in your life!  Like Jeff.  Was he, like, a major love, or just a mini-love?”
“Well, he was kind of a mini-love, but turned into a major love, and I was, like, so totally in love with him, but he dumped me, and I was sad, but I got over it quickly . . .”

When this pair got off the bus, someone behind us breathed out an exasperated “Thank goodness that’s over!”
We were not alone.

The High-Tech Tourist
This is the tourist who carries:
·         a regular camera
·         a digital camera
·         a video camera (sometimes two)
·         a cell phone
·         an electronic chronometer watch
·         a digital light meter
·         a GPS indicator
·         an IPad
·         an IPod
·         several other indistinguishable gizmos

This particular breed of tourist becomes totally dysfunctional when something – anything – beeps.  I took perverse delight in sidling up close behind High-Tech tourists and making the alarm on my watch beep.  I have to admit that the unfortunate victim looked like a human windmill as he tried to figure out which toy was making the noise.

The Bleary-Eyed Bar Tourist
Truly amazing to us were the people who spent thousands to travel half-way around the world, only to spend thousands more getting plastered, day after day, in the hotel bar.  There were a few on this most recent trip.

“Why, shore, when I [hiccup] was in Australia, they got good wine there, you know [urp], the bar at the Hilton had ‘em all, it was great . . . [hiccup] . . . an' I even got to see one of them weird kangaroo thingys . . . "

To be concluded...

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Starting with 25


Yes, it's blurry.
Photographing children and wildlife. It's the same . . .
For two weeks, we had our youngest son’s (then) two children (ages 3 years and 16 months) in our home while their parents were exploring places warm and sunny.
I should probably mention that, at the time, our home already housed four adults and one resident three-year-old.
It was, for the most part, a marvelous time!

Twenty-five things we learned:
1. Children are like the ocean. You never want to turn your back.
2. The decibels reached by the average toddler during normal conversation cannot be measured by normal means.
3. Enthusiasm and unhappiness are often expressed with the same ear-piercing wail.
4. Also hunger, I’m-not-tired, and he-took-my-toy.
5. Three-year-olds and scissors should never make even a passing acquaintance.
6. Just because they’re approximately the same size, two three-year-olds don’t always see eye-to-eye.
7. The definition of a toddler is someone two feet tall with an arm reach of eight feet.
8. The head is equipped with a solid bone for a reason.
9. Bike helmets should be a standard component of every outfit (see #8).
10. Just because someone is looking at you, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are also listening.
11. Hiding places turn easily into finding places. A little too easily. Sooo . . .
12. Nothing is safe.
13. A toddler can – and will – eat their weight in food.
14. And, conversely, can live on air for an inordinate amount of time.
15. If you turn on the TV, the only time they notice is for the first three minutes.
16. And when you shut it off.
17. The bathtub is an excellent place to play. 
18. With or without water in it.
19. If one wakes up in the middle of the night, one needs the company of a sibling.
20. And/or at least two grandparents.
21. If a diaper says 8 to 10 pounds, that really is all it will hold.
22. The amount of time one needs to hurry a toddler to the potty is proportionate to the amount of time it takes for them to realize they have to go. And telling you.
23. There's nothing quite like a small herd of children greeting you enthusiastically at the door when you get home.
24. A toddler hug makes anything better.
25. A toddler kiss, ditto.

Their parents returned home from a wonderful trip. Everyone was happily reunited.
And Grandma went back to bed.

Monday, May 30, 2022


Please forgive me for the focus of today's poem for Memorial Day but I'm thinking today of the little lives lost in an ongoing war.
I try to keep my Poetry Monday topics upbeat, often nonsensical.
But I have been weeping for days.
And this is important.
In days of old, the Baal priests,
Did not sacrifice mere beasts,
Children were their chosen prey,
They sacrificed them day by day,
And terror, heartbreak and remorse,
These mattered little in their course,
And hour-by-hour and day-by-day,
The children on their altars lay,
The last view of these innocents?
A statue swirled in foul incense,
The years have passed, but man’s the same,
The altar’s changed, but to our shame
Remains. The idol’s not ‘someone’,
The golden shape there is a gun,
The last thing glimpsed by our small folk?
A gun that’s swirled in foul smoke,
And we have not advanced at all,
Our victims still are precious, small.
If our children’s lives we shirk,
They’re not our focus. Greatest work,
Then woe to all else that we do,
Our civilization’s shattered, too.

Photo Credit: Karen of
Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With gentle thoughts,
Perhaps a grin?
So KarenCharlotteMimi, me
Have crafted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, I hope you'll join our den,
Cause Yo-yos are our topic then.

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks (with a huge thank-you to Mimi, who comes up with so many of them!)...

Memorial Day (May 30) Today.

Yo-yo (June 6)

Roller Coaster (June 13)

World Refugee Day (June 20)

The Happy Birthday song (June 27)

Independence Day (US) or Sidewalk egg-frying day (July 4)

Loneliness (July 11)

Ice Cream (July 18)

Old Jokes (July 25)

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


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Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
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My Big Brother's Stories

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
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