What’s Happening

Usually, not much.  In this new and exciting category I will make a brave attempt to write about the here and now of my existence.  So, ummm.  Yeah.  It’s snowing.  Today is my little sister’s birthday.  There are not a whole whack of days left before Christmas 2006.  We’re having a problem with our cat in the middle of the night in the hallway beside the bedrooms emitting blood curdling yowls that would wake the dead.  W. thinks I should take him to the vet.  Maybe he has a toothache.  I think his little brain is malfunctioning worse than normal.  He is perfectly quiet and content as long as he knows he is not alone.  Like right now – peacefully happily sleeping beside me while I type away.  But if I go into another room and close the door, freak out time.  Weird little creature.  I have a huge monstrous parcel to mail to my grandson and foster grandchildren.  I bought a large flat boxed mega-blocks toy without considering it’s unsuitable mailing size.  Hindsight is a beautiful thing.  So the box had to fit that thing, and all the other stuff had to fit around it, and they are going to receive a LOT of crumpled up newspaper.  It’s so awkward, perhaps the post office people will refuse to take it, and I’ll have to hire a bus.  Okay, it’s not that bad.  But still.  I was going to do a Christmas letter this year – have the paper and everything – but happily for everyone on my card list, my printer died and has been sent to Ontario for repairs.  Or replacement.  I suspect the latter.  It took UPS three days to pick it up, so I’m not really optimistic about getting it back in a big hurry.  And I don’t have a clue what I was going to write in a Christmas letter anyway, so really, it’s all for the best.  On Tuesday I couldn’t leave the house, waiting for various things to happen, half of which never did.  We needed groceries, there was nothing to eat, and I was slowly starving to death.  Now that there’s all kinds of stuff, I’m not hungry.  I need to get ready to go to work, so…. get your vocal chords primed Ben.  Your life is more exciting than mine in many ways.  My car is leaking oil for some reason, according to W. who makes it his mission in life to notice these vehicular-related happenings.  I would probably drive around in oblivion until the car came to a grinding halt and then deal with it.  He says he has his eye on a new car for me – he knows a guy who knows a guy…. 

 So, wow.  Isn’t this category a truly great idea?  All my senseless ramblings in one spot.  Talking to myself, myself talking back.   I’m liking it a lot.    

Sunny Boy

A weird little friend,  with a strange little name that I’ve forgotten,  used to play road hockey with my son.  They used the scoop of a front end loader that was parked on the street for their goal.  This kid, who was half my son’s size and a glutton for punishment, stood in front of the scoop and tried to block K’s shots.  “Come on, sonny boy!!  Shoot it!  Shoot it!!  Arrrrggghhhhh…..  Okay, try that again – you won’t knock me down this time, SONNY BOY!”  He was hilarious.  For awhile, the nickname stuck.  You could spell it either way.    

When we lived in the north we all made ‘little while’ friends, but our son was the best at making the most.  Now he is the best at making the kind that last.  At the risk of sounding like a demented doting mom,  I have to say he has one of the sunniest personalities I’ve ever known.  I’m not talking about the fake cheery stuff either.  He just is a very happy person from the inside out.  Nobody has a stress free life, but he’s one of those lucky people who can roll with the punches and see the funny side of every situation.  He will not dwell on the negative.  The one and only time he got sent home from school was the day that a friend drew a funny picture and K. could not stop laughing about it.  What kid gets in trouble for laughing?  It was a bit out of control.  Even when we asked him to explain the problem, he could not stop giggling about it.   

He’s still a big spaghetti fan.  And a fan of good food in general.  And the kind of hot sauce that brings tears to your eyes.

He has never been afraid to improvise. 

He was influenced at a very young age by his maternal grandpa, who passed along to him an incredibly goofball sense of humor.

He has become a fun uncle and a loving and patient dad. 

I know, Kale.  He’s a bit crazy.  But if you turn out to be even a little bit like him, that will be a very good thing.

Time Travelling

I used to get super annoyed whenever my father-in-law would start blathering away about his army days and the war and his good buddies.  There is his life before going over seas, and then there is his life after coming home.  But those few years inbetween are the ones he dwells on incessantly, usually after consuming several rums.  His memories are vivid.  They’ve become pretty vivid for the rest of us too,  after having heard them so many times.  He’s hard to stop once he gets going.  W. is like a little boy when it comes to this, and appears to dearly love hearing these things  told to him, over and over.  He is very proud of his dad, and his dad is a proud man.  I suppose I need a kick in the ass for being petulant and impatient about it, since I really have no idea at all what it was like for him and what kind of an enormous impact it had on him and on his life.  My daughter asked me once,  “Mommy, why does grandpa ALWAYS talk about the war?”  “I don’t know honey.  I guess he thinks we want to hear about it.”  BZZZZZ!!!!  Wrong answer.   Now I understand a little better.  Now I know he still has horrific nightmares about the things that happened, and that by talking about them he is trying to make sense of it all.  Some things defy reason, but we all have a need to look back and sort through events that shaped us into what we are today.   So, I’m sorry dad.  For all the barely concealed eye rolling I’ve done over the years and the sighs and the mind wandering on my part. 

Because, look at me!  I’m doing the same thing.  Although I didn’t have any one major traumatic episode in my life that drastically changed everything (unless you count my marriage to your peculiar son as one of those), there have been phases and adventures and experiences that I feel compelled to chronicle.  Sometimes when I’m writing these things I imagine my audience sighing audibly and wandering off to make a sandwich.  But I’ve learned from you and I don’t let it deter me.

My sister in law was a little more blunt when she listened to his meanderings.  “Dad – do you have a point?  If there’s a point to this, could you please get to it?”  Well, sometimes you just don’t even know yourself what the point is, let alone if you’ll ever get to it, or recognize that you’re there if you do. 

Which brings me to the point of this little diatribe.  Ummm…..  Oh yeah, time travelling.  I know I’ve been bouncing all over the place with disjointed digs into the past so that only the very brave or foolhardy can make a good guess at what decade I’m in.  It’s like one of those exasperating movies that shows you the ending at the beginning and jumps back and forth and sideways all the way through so that by the time it’s over you’re so thoroughly confused you think you actually enjoyed it.   

Now if this were all to make some kind of logical sense I would probably post a picture of my father-in-law in uniform and tell you some stuff about war torn Italy.  So of course I’m not going to do that at all.

  Instead, here’s an artist’s conception of what he may have looked like in Italy in the rain.  It also mirrors the sour puss expression I am so sorry to have shown him when he was trying to enlighten me on the experience.

Thirty Five and Counting

In Edith Wharton’s Tales of Men and Ghosts (1910) Lizzie West discovers her husband has lied to her and resolves to leave. Then she imagines life without him. “She understood now that she had gradually adjusted herself to the new image of her husband as he was, as he would always be. He was not the hero of her dreams, but he was the man she loved and who had loved her. For she saw now, in this last wide flash of pity and initiation, that, as a comely marble may be made out of worthless scraps of mortar, glass and pebbles, so out of mean mixed substances may be fashioned a love that will bear the stress of life.”

I wish I could say the thirty five in this title refers to my age.  But no, it’s the number of years I’ve been married.  To the same person.  Long pause while we all digest that information.  It does seem to have become a love that will bear the stresses of life.  There have been some rough times.  Once when our daughter was a teenager she asked me why I didn’t just DIVORCE the s.o.b.   I told her I did not invest all this time and effort into a relationship just to chuck it out the window when things got rocky.  I still believe that it’s all been worth it, and I truly cannot imagine my life without him.  Or, maybe we’ve both just dug ourselves into a rut so deep it’s impossible to imagine climbing out of it.  Whatever the reasons, we seem to be in it for the long haul.

A married couple in their late 50’s was celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary in a quiet, romantic little restaurant. Suddenly, a tiny yet beautiful fairy appeared on their table and said, “For being such an exemplary married couple and for being loving to each other for all this time, I will grant you each a wish.”

“Oh, I want to travel around the world with my darling husband.” The fairy waved her magic wand and – poof! – two tickets for the Queen Mary II appeared in her hands. The husband thought for a moment:

“Well, this is all very romantic, but an opportunity like this will never come again. I’m sorry my love, but my wish is to have a wife 30 years younger than me.”

The wife, and the fairy, were deeply disappointed, but a wish is a wish.

So the fairy waved her magic wand and – poof! – the husband became 88 years old. The moral of this story: Men who are ungrateful bastards should remember fairies are female.

I used to look at wedding anniversary pictures of couples who had been together for an incredible length of time and think, wow.  They must really love eachother.  Now I know there’s WAY more to it.  Here are the reasons we’ve been together for so long (in random order).

1.  We accept eachother as different people.  We each have our own thoughts, opinions, prejudices, quirks, habits and needs.  We both try to love and respect what they are, not what each of us thinks they should be for the other.  Does that make sense?  I gave up a long time ago trying to change either one of us at a basic level – we are who we are.  We’ve learned to live with eachother’s idiosyncracies.  Perfection would be too boring for words, wouldn’t it?  I guess we’ll never know for sure.

2. We both take pleasure in the small things. The grand, sweeping, romantic gestures can only be sustained for a very short time.   Before you know it, real life takes over and the small things are mostly all you’ve got on a day to day basis.  I dearly love and appreciate the little things he does for me.  I love that he asks for my opinion,  even if he doesn’t always agree with it.  I love that when I fold his laundry or cook his favourite meal he doesn’t act like an ungrateful bastard. 

3.  We don’t let resentments fester.  We’ve both learned to let things go.  In the grand scheme of things,  how much do they matter?  We try to harbor no lists of past crimes – not easy, since we both have so many.  But if you bring up the things that bug you without being irrational and insisting one person is right and one is wrong and deal with them before they get huge, you’ll both be happier.

4.  We try to be nice to eachother.  I’m better at it than he is, but that’s just the way things are.  He is my lover AND my best friend.  I think it’s impossible to live together without being both of those things.  I love to complain, and all I want him to do is listen, but men always need to solve problems.  I appreciate that he wants to help, even when his advice is useless.

See?  Advice like this will not bring your fish back to life, but you have to appreciate that someone is trying to make you feel better.  That’s what friends are for.

And what’s love got to do with it?  Everything, I guess.  Even when it’s burried really deep down, it’s there.  It’s the number one reason people get married in the first place.  Eventually you realize you should have placed more importance on a sense of humor and intelligence, but by then it’s too late.   We’re getting pretty good at this growing old together thing.  I don’t know if I can stand another 35 years of it, but I’m willing to give it a shot. 

Yellowknife 1980’s

Moving to Yellowknife was hard for W. because suddenly going to work meant riding in an elevator to the eighth floor of the city’s one and only high rise and sitting in a cubicle at a desk all day.  Definitely an outdoor-type person’s conception of hell.  It was a long and hard transition for him.  I suppose the kids and I didn’t make it any easier for him by being practically jubilant about everything. 

The house was great.  Nice open concept living/dining/kitchen area, three bedrooms and full bath;  then down four steps to the back door, half bath, laundry room and rec room with patio doors that opened onto the fenced back yard.  We had a crawl space, and no basement.  We had grass.   About a block and a half behind us was a Catholic school, which the kids could have walked to, but they had it in their heads that they’d be riding on a bus, so we chose a school down town.  It turned out to be an awesome choice. Great teachers, nice modern school.  They made a lot a friends.   My first job in the city was at YK Drug Mart, 5 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  It’s the only job I’ve ever worked at where you were there 9 hours and got paid for 7.  Our boss gave us two half hour coffee breaks and an hour lunch which all of us would have gladly given up to go home earlier.  It made the evenings with my kids rather short but it did foster a whole lot of organizational skills on my part and a lot of independence on theirs.  And I must admit I was ecstatically happy to be back working, out of the house, making my own money, and talking to adults.  I don’t know how stay at home moms do it.  The pay was the pits of course, with no increase for taking on more responsibilities.  And cleaning and stocking shelves and running a cash register can become mind numbing.  I wasn’t really sorry to leave.

Meanwhile, W. went crazy getting the kids into extracuricular activities.  That first year D. was in brownies, gymnastics and jazz dance.  K. was in beavers, judo and hockey.  Absolutely crazy trying to co-ordinate getting both of them to everything – plus I decided to try yoga,  and W. took up trap shooting.  And then we put both kids into swimming.  Eventually we were all burned out and had to make more sane choices, and slow down so we could actually have the energy to enjoy whatever we were doing.

Speaking of sanity, I think what saved W.’s was his RCMP friends.  We did have some of the best friends we ever had while we lived in Yellowknife.  We had a big party at our house one weekend, with the guests being predominantly off duty police officers.  They do love to party we’ve found.  Maybe because they have to be so sensible and sober at their jobs that’s why they go so completely the other direction when they get an opportunity.  D. told her little friends across the street that there was a party at our house, and her friends’ dad said jokingly that if it got too noisy he’d call the police.  She told him he might as well call our house because they’d all be there.  It’s quite a strange sight to see grown men chugging a drink, then falling to the floor onto their backs and waving their arms and legs in the air.  They called this the initiation into the ‘dead bug club’.  They all found it hysterically funny.  Canada’s finest. 

I think I had worked at the drug store less than a year when I got a chance to work for Outcrop, a small publishing company that had just started putting out “Up Here” magazine.   The circulation department (whose name was Barb – hahaha) (it was a small operation) hired me to help process subscriptions.  In hindsight, I think that might very well have been the best place I ever worked.  I think it was much like what I imagine working at a newspaper would be like – we had advertisers, and writers and photographers and typesetters.  We had deadlines.   We had little exhausted celebrations when the copies were hot off the press.  I did some proof reading, but never got into the writing aspect of things – I did accounts receivable and the billing for advertisements, some reception, helped with accounts payable.  Wherever I was needed.  It was never boring.  There was a lot of staff turnover, but that’s to be expected in such a transient community.  So we met a lot of people.  There were some very talented people who left because they couldn’t adjust to life in the north.  At one point they downsized and let about half of the staff go – that was a gloomy day.  The rest of us were too stunned to grumble for fear of being booted out the door too.  We just worked harder. 

This picture is on the back cover of the last issue of “Business North”, a magazine we published for a year that didn’t go over very well, so it was discontinued and more effort put into “Up Here” instead.  What a fiasco, getting everyone into a t-shirt, all in one place at one time, and posing for this silly picture.  I’m front row on the left, beside the two women who were responsible for it all.  A frozen moment in time – the next day any number of these people could have been gone and replaced.  The magazine is still in publication, although I think it’s been taken over by I have no idea who.  I don’t subscribe to it anymore. 

http://www.uphere.ca/index.aspx

It’s nice to see it’s still around.  Even if the people who created it originally are no longer involved.  I got an absolutely glowing letter of recommendation from them when I left – I think I may still have a copy of it somewhere.  I really had no idea they liked me that much.  Either that or it was complete B.S.  I prefer to believe the former.  They did seem truly sorry to see me go. 

Our transfer to Yellowknife was a stepping stone to finally heading back south.  I’m really glad our kids had this transition experience to get them used to urban life – going directly to Edmonton from a small northern community would have been a huge culture shock for them.  I think we all had our fill of moving around all over the place.  Time to put down some roots somewhere.  When the opportunity came, we took it and moved here.  It’s been almost 20 years, so I guess we like it here.  Or we’re stuck in a huge rut – one or the other.  Alberta is definitely where our kids call home, and no doubt where our grandchildren will grow up.  We keep saying we’re going back to Ontario, but neither of us seem to be in any hurry. 

One day you’ll look back….

Someday I’m going to organize my photo albums.  What?  Don’t look at me like that.  I am.  Hopefully by the time I get around to it I’ll still be able to see what I’m doing and recognize who’s in the pictures.   If not, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I’m on it.  I was doing okay for awhile;  the pictures in our first dozen or so albums were all in chronological order and captioned.  Then I found out this kind of thing is just not even close to normal.  I do aspire to normal a lot of the time.  You can see where the albums once all tried to make sense of themselves before things went tragically askew.  Now every album has missing links and blank spaces and a hodge podge of miscellaneous paraphernalia that falls out after you flip a few pages.   Keeping organized albums while at the same time being a big fan of those collage pictures, where you fit a bunch of shots behind the little spaces to make one big conglomeration,  turns out to be not a good mix.  A lot of pieces went missing for those projects.   My mom has taken that concept a step further and has whole albums that scan generations, in no logical order.  “Baby so and so” beside her adult son graduating from high school.  It’s weird.  There doesn’t seem to be an easy cure for inherited weirdness.  Anyway, as usual, I digress to the point of forgetting why I started this blog in the first place.  That’s why I usually wait to slap a title on these things until I’m finished with them, or they just sort of peter out and end on their own.

A couple of pictures fell out of an album I was looking at the other day and they made me laugh out loud.  Apparently I was the kind of mother who, when she caught her kids doing something odd, grabbed the camera first and asked questions later.   I’d like to say the theme of this particular photo album is “how my daughter always was very good at getting her brother in trouble” but that is just too vague and could be an over-all theme for a dozen or more of them.

When kids are too quiet, it’s best to investigate.  Awww.  Just look at that little scrunched up pickle face!  Since he was too small to open the fridge or the crisper drawer, I expect his sister did both of those things.  But he wouldn’t have needed a whole lot of encouragement to help her empty it.  Once his hands were full, what’s the next logical step?  Put something in your mouth.  Ooops.  This wasn’t the day he tried tobasco sauce;  that ominous day was still in his future.  

 

What’s worse than too quiet?  When there’s an excessive amount of giggling and shrieking. 

Look!  I finger painted my brother!  He likes it! <sigh>  Today it’s paint.  Can permanent marker be far behind? 

I don’t have a shot of the day my kids skated on eggs on the kitchen floor.  I think an egg got dropped and broken by accident and one thing led to another.  I was almost finished cleaning from one end of the house to the other, and came from that other end to this one to investigate once again.  It’s lovely when your kids are able to entertain eachother, really.  I can see that now.  But then I lost it.  I saw real fear in their eyes.  A phone call from my mother at that exact moment may have saved their lives.  One day you’ll look back on these things and laugh,  she told me.  Hahaha I said, practicing for the future.  

Water For Elephants

This book, by Sara Gruen, is a great one for curling up with on a lazy afternoon when you’re not likely to be interupted.  It’s hard to put down.   

Jacob Jankowski is an old man in an assisted living home whose memories are sparked by a nearby visiting circus.  As he falls into fitful dreams, the past emerges.  He was stripped of everything after his parents’ untimely death during the Great Depression when he was just twenty-three, and stricken with grief, failed to sit for his veterinary exams at Cornell.  He hops a circus train and is hired on to care for the show’s menagerie, his advanced training in veterinary medicine his ticket into this bizarre world. Here he meets Marlena, an equestrian performer, and her trainer husband August who is obsessively jealous and given to unspeakable cruelties toward man and beast.  The story is also about Jacob’s relationship with Rosie, the circus elephant,  and Rosemary, one of his caregivers in the nursing home.  There’s a lot of bouncing back and forth between the hardscrabble and often unscrupulous practices of a traveling circus, the rowdy carnie atmosphere and the antiseptic corridors of the assisted living home, all viewed through Jacob’s perspective, as he rages helplessly against the decrepitude of old age and the secrets of his past.  The transitions from present to past and back again were very smooth.  Jacob now dwells in both worlds, and the strong person he once was is exactly who he still is, a man who cannot be broken by circumstances.   

Big thumbs up on this one, even if the ending was a bit strange.  I still recommend it highly.

A Goose Tale

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Lin who went to visit her grandma.  Grandma lived in a big old house with a sprawling veranda on a farm at the top of a hill.  All around the house there was a fence covered in vines and bushes.  There were lots of flowers, and some lazy cats and a woodshed inside the fence.  Outside the fence was the rest of the farm – the barn and a tractor, wagons, cows and horses and other scary stuff.  Grandma was always telling people to close the gate, but it was fun to open it and swing on it and to forget. 

On this particular sunny day, a big old gander wandered into the yard through the open gate and waddled right up onto the veranda.  At first Lin was delighted with the company.  She wanted to know his name, and grandpa told her it was “Christmas Dinner”.  Then grandma came out with a broom and tried to shoo him off the porch and out of the yard.  The gander was understandably insulted and miffed and refused to go.  The harder grandma tried, the more stubborn he became.  Perhaps he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  Finally he became quite annoyed.  He spread his wings and ran towards Lin with a horrifying HISSS.  When she tried to back up she suddenly plopped down on the ground and then she started to cry. 

It’s good to know that every child has a fairy godmother hanging around just waiting for a chance to be helpful.  Lin’s Aunt M. suddenly appeared and snatched her up into the air.  She dried her tears and hugged her, and then she asked Lin if she would like to help her get the goose to the other side of the fence.  It seemed impossible.  And dangerous.  But you don’t say no to a red headed aunt that you adore who has just saved your life. 

The two of them went to the outdoor pump and together they filled a dipper with water.  Aunt M. said they would coax the gander out of the yard with this.  Lin was skeptical, but the thing with fairy godmothers is that you have to believe. 

 

And guess what?  It worked like magic.  The gander followed the dipper out through the gate, and there he took so many drinks of water that Lin thought maybe they had saved his life too.

He likes me! she said, astonshed.  Aunt M. just laughed.  And the gooose toddled off to new adventures.

Aquaphobia

All of us have fears of one kind or another.  Most of the more common ones are very healthy and help to ensure our safety in dangerous situations, examples being – fear of disease, infection, being buried alive, fire, tornados, vicious wild animals, poisonous snakes and things like pianos falling from high altitudes.  All of these things have the potential to hurt you, and having a healthy fear of them could save your life.

Phobias take these fears way beyond the norm.  They are irrational, excessive, unreasonable, and accompanied by extreme anxiety.  Symptoms  include a racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating, chest or stomach pain, trembling, loss of control, passing out,  or, in other words, a full blown panic attack.  Not pretty.   And if your phobias include things like fear of looking up, bald people, telephones or fog, you really should try to face and over-come them, because some of these things are hard to continually avoid.

I think a lot of phobias originate in childhood.  I used to have an irrational fear of big black dogs, which I only ever saw in nightmares, so it was hard for my parents to help me get over that one.  He was my own personal monster under the bed that wagged his tail and still managed to be menacing. I’m still uncomfortable around big dogs, but I don’t run away screaming if I see one.   I used to fake fear of vegetables, more specifically long green snake shaped ones named asparagus, but my mother never took that one seriously.   I don’t know where my water phobia originated exactly, but I did have two water-related incidents in my childhood that were somewhat traumatic.  The first was my brother holding my head under water as a joke.  Perhaps if I had been big enough and strong enough to reciprocate I would have been better able to grasp the humor involved in this activity.  The second incident involved snatching a one year old child out of the water after he toppled over into it face first.  I suspect that kid has grown up with a fear of being wrenched into the air and clutched tightly to the breast of a screaming freaked out crazy person.  Sorry kid.  I thought I was saving you from drowning. 

My water phobia wasn’t exactly disabling, but it was troublesome and sometimes embarrassing.  I grew up on the shores of Lake Huron but I never learned how to swim.  I could wade in up to my knees and stay perfectly calm.  When the water got waist high, I would start to gasp and my heart would race.  Back then saying you didn’t want your hair to get wet was an acceptable excuse for not going in any further.  I could take a shower but I could NOT get my head or face wet – face and hair had to be washed separately.  Getting into a boat made me ill.  Seeing Niagara Falls up close for the first time was truly frightening.  Honestly,  I even had to hold my breath watching deep sea divers on t.v.  Then I met my husband who is part fish apparently.  He wanted me to jump off the dock at his cottage into the river and I burst into tears at the mere suggestion.  I have to give him credit;  although he could not understand it, he did try really hard to deal with it by saying and doing all the right things.   “I’m here – just tell me what I can do to help, whenever you’re ready.  Meanwhile, put on this life jacket, here’s one to sit on in the boat, and here’s one to hang on to just in case.  No crying, okay??” The big problem with phobias is that you KNOW they’re irrational.  You know you are being ridiculous, but you feel powerless to change things.   

When our daughter was a baby my husband would pour buckets of water over her head in the bath tub.  It made her gleeful.  It made me gasp for breath and want to strangle him.  When she was a year old he held her in his arms and jumped into the deep end of a swimming pool.  My heart stopped I swear, but they both popped up laughing and she was squealing “again!”   That’s when I finally made up my mind to do something to face this stupid fear and get over it, so that I would not pass it on to my children. 

I got private swimming lessons from a good friend who taught children how to swim.  This may not sound like a great feat to anyone else, but after several weeks I had officially passed the tadpole level.  I was able to splash water on my face and live to tell about it.  I was able to put my face into the water and blow bubbles.  I was able to float on my back and breathe at the same time.  And I was able to hold my nose and dunk my head under water without having a panic attack.  I still don’t like to do that one, but I know if I had to I could.  Eventually I learned to dog paddle, tread water, and get more than two feet away from the dock without passing out.  Oh, and wash my hair in the shower.  That was a big one.

My kids both love the water.  They are both excellent swimmers.  I didn’t damage them for life.  My daughter thinks in another life I probably died at sea.  She has a spider phobia, so she knows what this irrational kind of fear feels like.   My son went through a phase where he had an irrational fear of chinese food, but I think that was more visual than anything else.  And if you’re hungry enough, you can get over that one in a hurry.  My husband has a sort of phobia about snakes.  He can NOT handle them.  But since its not something you have to deal with every day I think its a minor phobia and really not worth stressing over. 

There are still some water related things I avoid.  You could not pay me enough to ever go down a water slide.  I don’t think I’d be very good company on an ocean voyage.  Water skis are something I don’t want to put on, even on dry land.   I won’t ever be an Olympic diver.  If I never see Niagara Falls again I can live with that. 

I love a rainy day.  I love mist and fog and drizzle.  I like to walk in the rain, and I love to watch a down-pour.  Thunder and lightning – very exciting.  lol.  Walking through puddles after the rain is exilarating.  I think the difference between these things and my fear of the murky depths is the presence of a lot of AIR. 

Just wanted to add a couple more of my coping skills.  This first one is silly, but I’m proud of it because it works well.  (The second one I’m not so proud of….)  To get to our island camp on the Winnipeg River we have to go by boat.  It isn’t far – lots of people, my kids included, have swam there and back.  I figure I might be able to make it half way, so when I get into the boat I keep my eye alternately on the point of departure and the destination.  The water can be dead calm and nothing short of the loch ness monster showing up could cause us to capsize, but I need to have a plan of action should it happen.  As we leave the shore I mentally picture myself being able to swim back to it.  We go a little further, I could still make it.  We’re almost half way, I could still survive.  Now we’re half way, and I would have to choose which way to go….this way….that way…..okay, now we’re closer to the island and I’d be able to swim to it if I had to.  Dilligent concentration of this sort has kept me alive, there is no doubt in my mind.  When we go fishing I’m fine as long as the shore is within attainable distance.  BTW, there is nothing more brain numbing than fishing.  The only thing that keeps me concious is knowing that it may be possible to drown in your sleep. 

Now for the second coping skill, which I don’t recommend very hightly at all.    One  long ago very hot summer evenning after a wedding reception (at which I had entirely too much to drink)  we and an enebriated group of friends decided to go skinny dipping at the island.  It seemed like an inspired notion at the time.  Only four of us ended up being brave and foolish enough to do it, and I was one of them.  No life jacket, no swim suit, no problem.  I remember thinking to myself, what’s the worst thing that could happen?  My drink might spill and that would be a shame, but not the end of the world.  My husband still shakes his head in astonishment at the memory of it.  He thought it was the big break-through.  His aquaphobic spouse, treading water a good three feet from the ladder.  With himself mere inches away of course, having to be reassured every three seconds that I was fine.  I am FINE.  Fine.  Get-away-from-me-I-am-FINE!  I wasn’t fine at all of course.  And the next day I was sober and aghast at what I had done.  I could have drowned.  Naked.  OH…MY….GOD.  Strangely enough I didn’t develop a booze phobia, although that might have been a good thing.  (Hey kids!  You should have seen your mother last night!  She was swimming without a life jacket!! )  (Please, SHUT UP.  I have a serious headache.)

I Swear Rarely, I Swear

Another imported blog – don’t worry, I won’t be repeating myself forever.  (HA – every old person says that one, over and over.)  I just know the following will be of extreme interest to anyone who has ever had the urge to swear.  And if you aren’t one of those people, where the $%&@ are you from, Mars?

When we lived in Inuvik my husband had a dog team which he struggled mightily to control.  It was a frustrating hobby that turned out to be way more work than he ever imagined.  Another seemingly random observation – Inuvik was the dustiest muddiest place we ever lived in.  One day in Inuvik my daughter and I had the following conversation:

Mommy, god-damn is a really bad word.  (Yes it is, and telling me that is not really an acceptable way to get away with saying it.)  Little kids should NEVER say god-damn.  (No, they shouldn’t, so would you please stop saying it?)  But its okay for dads to say god-damn.  (And why is it okay for dads?)  Because there’s GOD-DAMN MUD and GOD-DAMN DOGS!!  She sounded just like him.

It was a very rare occurance when we grew up to hear a swear word uttered by either of our parents.  If dad ever let one slip within our hearing we were suitably astounded and I know I could only manage to gape at him in disbelief. To think that he actually knew that word was one thing.  To hear him utter it was such a rare and unheard of thing that it gave the word intense power. 

My grandson gets very upset if I say the word ‘stupid’.  It’s a bad bad word that he is not allowed to use.  Isn’t that stupid??  And the other day my grand daughter told me all about the word ‘crap.’  It was like deja-vu with the god-damn lecture. 

Crap is not a nice word, but sometimes you can say it and its okay.  (Nope, crap isn’t a very nice word.)  But grandma, its okay to say it if you’re feeling really sick.  You can say, mommy, I feel like crap. (Ah.  I see.)  But if your mom looks at you and says you LOOK like crap, then its a bad word.  (I totally get your point.)  Choose your words wisely mom.