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National Theatre At Home

One of the few gifts of the spring pandemic lockdown was being able to watch plays from the National Theatre on YouTube for free. I don’t miss much about living in a city, but I do miss going to live theatre, and this was a welcome distraction from the simmering panic.

Steven and I have gone to Charlottetown in the past to see the National Theatre Live productions at the movie theatre, but this hasn’t been possible in recent years. When the Live at Home series ended, I wondered why we couldn’t just watch plays at home all the time.

The answer to my prayers arrived today with the new subscription service National Theatre at Home. We haven’t subscribed to any streaming services for some time, but I jumped on this right away. You can sign up for a yearly subscription or rent single shows.

There isn’t a lot on there yet, but they promise to release more each month. There is Medea with Helen McCrory, which we saw at the movie theatre and can’t wait to watch again as it was breathtaking. Amadeus was fantastic as well. And I hope Death of England: Delroy, which streamed on YouTube this past weekend, shows up on NT at Home as it was dense and powerful, a play about Brexit and Black Lives Matter and COVID-19 and so much more, the only play I’ve ever seen that talked about what was happening at the same time I was watching the play.

Radio didn’t kill theatre, movies didn’t kill theatre, television tried to kill theatre and probably came close at times, but theatre adapted, continued on, and the online world will only stretch it more. We still want to be in a space with someone else telling us a story surrounded by others who are listening to the same story. Sitting in your living room watching a play isn’t quite the same, but who knows what virtual reality will make possible?

15 Years of Kiva

Today is Kiva’s 15th Anniversary! Kiva is a microfinance platform that allows people to make small loans to borrowers around the world. I’ve been a Kiva lender since 2007 and a volunteer editor with their 400-strong Review and Translation Program since March 2009.

As of today, I’ve edited 11,787 loans that have enabled 11,206,606 USD in lending activity on the Kiva website. The nifty Kiva editing platform, Viva, also tells me those loans added up to 1,585,796 words. I check each loan over at least twice, so it’s no wonder I now wear reading glasses!

It’s interesting to look back at how my yearly editing totals grew over the years, with the exception of 2015, the year I was diagnosed with hemochromatosis and obviously slept when I should have been editing! This year’s total is certainly a reflection of the global impact of COVID-19, with very few loans being posted for a while as the pandemic raced around the world.

What have I learned after reading about nearly 12,000 people, most of whom live in places I’ve never been and will probably never visit? More than I can ever relay, I’m sure, but here are a couple of examples:

  • a convenience store is called a sari-sari in the Philippines (so when one opened in my area, I knew exactly what it was!)
  • tuk-tuks, boda-bodas, habal-habals, and just plain motorcycles seem to move billions of people every day
  • M-pesa is changing Africa and most of us in Level 4 countries have never heard of it

I was asked to tell my personal Kiva story earlier this week at a Zoom meeting of Kiva staff and volunteers. The rest of the world seems to have spent the entire COVID-19 pandemic on Zoom, but I’ve not been able to join in due to our janky home internet. A kind friend with slightly better internet connection allowed me to set up shop at her house and everything went well! I had hoped to impart some profound wisdom gleaned from a decade of being a Kiva volunteer, but it all ended up being quite simple :

The biggest lesson that is constantly being reinforced for me through my Kiva volunteering is that we all want the same basic things, no matter where we are in the world. Everyone who is caring for children wants them to have a good education, they want clean water and better living conditions, an opportunity to start a new business or improve the one they have. It’s certainly like that here on PEI, and while I imagined it was the same everywhere, I get to see the proof of this in every loan I edit.

PEI is in the Atlantic time zone, 4 hours behind the UK, 4 hours ahead of San Francisco. So, when I’m heading to bed on a dark, snowy Canadian winter night, I sometimes think of the people I’ve met through their loan descriptions, who are 12 hours or more ahead of me in Asia or Africa, starting their morning by opening their store, or preparing food for their restaurant, or walking to the fields, getting their children ready for school, launching their beautiful boats to go fishing. I cheer them on from afar, these new global neighbours, and for me, that’s what this editing journey has been all about. 

I’ve been volunteering for something or other almost my whole life, but my experience as a Kiva volunteer has been the most enjoyable and enriching of anything I have ever done as a volunteer. It remains fun and interesting, and that’s why I’m still doing it (and the fact that I can do it any time, even in my pajamas, is pretty great, too!).

Through Kiva, I get to see the best of the human spirit, and help to make the world a bit better for others. On days when the world seems especially upside down, which seems to be quite often lately, Kiva gives me hope. I’m not sure who I would be now without Kiva.

I happened to notice yesterday I had made a total of 499 loans, so I’m off to make one more in celebration of this milestone and round things off nicely. If you want to join me and nearly two million other lenders, you’ll find more information here.

Stay Safe

This has been a challenging Monday morning, plans abandoned as priorities changed quickly.

I decided to take a few minutes to recalibrate and finsh reading a library book so I could return it tomorrow. I found this little note on the back of a library slip which, by the March 31 due date, means it was likely written just as PEI started to lock down and we searched for ways to express our concern for each other in this new COVID-19 time. I went from feeling resentful and harried to feeling present and calm in the space of a few seconds, the powerful combination of surprise and words bringing me back into my body and helping me to feel peaceful. The twists and turns of life never cease to amaze me.

Twisting Fingers

Our hens spend a lot of time roaming around our yard in the summer, and the little plants that pop up in the  vegetable garden are very tempting treats. Stern warnings and pleading has not deterred those little eating machines, so some sort of physical barrier was in order.

I found some rolls of page wire in our woods a few years ago and dug them out last month. There were four sections, all basically sunk into to the the ground and firmly attached with tree roots. My best guess is that the original fence was built some time in the 1930s and could have been taken down after the 1960 West Prince Forest Fire when what had been farm fields was allowed to grow up into the forest that surrounds us now. The wire is old and rusty, kind of brittle, but good enough for what I need. It was easy to find enough small spruce trees that had blown over in the woods to make the fence posts and so I’m now putting my rickety fence together.

Page wire

The person who rolled up each length of fence made sure that it was well secured, the ends wound around to hold the roll together. I wonder who took the fence down and what they thought would happen to the page wire? I wonder what they would make of using page wire to keep hens out of a vegetable garden (I know the answer: it’s a dumb idea because chickens can go through page wire, which is really meant for cows and horses…I have a plan, though!).

The hooks all broke as I straightened them, but the fence is good enough, and I’m happy the wire is being used after decades of sitting and waiting for me to find a use for it.

Kindness Economy

David Cain’s latest post, How to Get Rich in the Kindness Economy, is a great reminder during a time when many fears and anxieties are pressing on me to soften and spread kindness. During my tai chi practice I try to balance strength with softness, intent with relaxation, grounding myself with letting myself fly. Some days it is easier to do than others, but I keep trying, and that’s the journey.

A little help from my hens

Last week I found out just how much chickens LOVE hostas. For some reason they ignored them for the past four years, but this year have been nibbling the new shoots to the ground. I now have various pieces of chicken wire propped around what remains of the poor plants and will hope for the best.

Today while I was weeding and edging a flowerbed, older hens Anni-Frid and Agnetha stood by as ususal to eat any worms or insects I uncovered, but they also plucked the annoying black flies that encircled my head. I guess a few flat hostas in exchange for pest control is sort of worth it. Sort of.

Snip and Sift

For all the new bakers and gardeners out there, two useful hints I’ve learned over my time dabbling in both pursuits:

  1. If you have planted more than one seed in a pot and only want one plant (think tomatoes and squash, not parsley or basil), snip the ones you don’t want with scissors rather than pulling them out. The roots of the little plants will often be intertwined and you’ll end up dislodging the one you want to keep as you tug out their potmates.
  2. Your recipe probably won’t tell you this, but always sift cocoa that is going into cakes or brownies. Even the freshest cocoa clumps together, and those clumps are hard to break up once you incorporate wet ingredients.
Bonus hint: make your own pots out of paper. There are ten billion online tutorials to help you figure it out. I roll mine around an old Keen’s mustard bottle. These are loofah seedlings because you should always try to grow something impossible to grow!

Bright Light

Now that we are racing to the summer equinox, the added hours of sunlight have been a big boost to our solar energy production.

Our 22-panel system was turned on in mid-November and struggled to generate much electricity at all. I certainly expected less output in winter, but it was almost none on some days. The panels were often covered in snow and ice, and as it is a roof-mounted system, there isn’t any safe way to clear them.

Last month things really took off and the electricity bill that arrived today was only $34, and there is even a 160 kWh credit that will carry forward to next month! Up until this bill, our net metering credit was for the full amount generated because it never came close to what we used; on our January bill, the credit was $3.74!

Our solar production since November 2019

The process to hook up to the Maritime Electric grid was a bit mysterious, and there wasn’t much explanation from them or my system installers on how the billing would work. All I knew was that we received a second meter to measure the outflow of solar energy from our panels into the grid, that amount would be deducted from the original meter that we have always had, and we would pay the difference.

I now see our net metering credit will only be for up to what we actually used from the grid and not the entire amount that went through our second meter. We will, therefore, never have a $0 bill, which makes sense as we would have to pay the service charge to stay connected to Maritime Electric. The credits will build up over the summer and be used up in winter.

April 2020 Maritime Electric bill

Our average monthly electricity usage since we moved into our house in 2002 was 605 kWh. It went up to an average of 850 kWh the first three months of this year with the addition of our EV (and I was driving to Summerside a lot), so to have it drop down again is really encouraging! I haven’t been driving much since March 13, so have only used 148 kWh to charge my Bolt EV compared to 459 kWh the previous month, which would explain some of the reduction.

The other drop in our bill is because the electricity from the panels goes through the house panel first and what is left over goes through our second meter and into the grid. Our solar system produced 897 kWh of electricity over this last billing period, and the second meter received 617 kWh, so we used 280 kWh of direct electricity that didn’t make it to the second meter, and that we didn’t pay HST on! I try to charge my car during sunny days to be able to drive on sunshine, and yes, I do sing a modified version of the Katrina and The Waves song when I’m doing it!

Solar production March 10 – April 9, 2020. Snowy days are pretty obvious!

So if you get a solar system in the winter, do not despair. Someday the sun will shine and you will see the benefits. As with everything these days, just hold on and things will be brighter.


One of the ten jillion articles I’ve read in the past week asked if bartering is ready for a comeback. I’m not sure where the writer thought it went, as I believe most of us trade our skills and gifts with others all the time. The transactions are not always immediate and direct in the “I’ll give you these magic beans for that cow, young Jack!” kind of way, but the kindness of friends and neighbours is certainly a form of bartering. It’s the kindness currency.

I had a late-evening call this week from a friend who said her iPad had restarted and now wouldn’t let her Pad. A storm was predicted and she was anxious to reconnect to her Ontario family. I tried to walk her through a recovery over the telephone, but an onsite visit was necessary.

The sanitized iPad was waiting in her porch, along with a container of Lysol wipes. A bit of fiddling got her back online. I headed off into the night with a wave through her window and a homemade gift to thank me. An excellent barter within the kindness economy that raised the Gross National Happiness by one connected person and one protected person.


Caroline Weaver owns CW Pencil Enterprise in NYC, home of the tempting quarterly Pencil Box subscription (which makes me almost want to break my “no new things” rule!). She, or one of her staff members, shared some collections discovered during shutdown cleaning and sorting, something I’ve been doing as well in a quest to find order in this upside-down time. The cat and veggie paperclips are too perfect.

My own tiny 6″ ruler collection. I recently found the bottom one in a pile of travel brochures from the 1970s.