Camp Log 4

July 14

Camp Log 2006, Part Four, The Finale

June 24th comes and goes – my dad’s 92nd birthday, and MIL’s 82nd.  Dad’s sister, my Aunt Lorna, shares the same birthday and she is 97.  I try to imagine living that long and can’t.  Although I suppose I’m well on my way.  What a sobering thought.  We call him on our cell phones to wish him a happy day, and he’s a little confused at first.  When I ask him how he’s doing he says “Oh yes, I think so.”.  I guess when you’re 92 you are allowed to make those kind of statements.  My family doesn’t swear – ever – but they have always found W.’s ability to curse kind of amusing.  Dad refers to him as “Lord Thunderin’ ” – I prefer to believe it’s a term of endearment.  When W. gets on the phone he shouts.  It’s such a bad habit, but at least dad hears and understands everything he says. 

Our get-together goes well.  There’s the obligatory tons of stuff to eat and drink and an abundance of sunshine.  I had forgotten about this part of the country’s love of desserts.  It’s a strange fetish.  I suppose because MIL knows I never bother with them, she brings three, including the best brownies ever made.  A cousin brings a huge lemon thing in a cardboard flat – shortbread and nut base, lemon and cream cheese center, three inch cool whip topping.  She fixes me with a frowning glare and says I better have room in the fridge for this.  Good Gawd.  I don’t, but make room by taking out some things that might survive the afternoon heat.  She tells everyone who will listen what the ingredients are, and that it’s a very “light” dessert.  In comparrison to what, a freight train? ?  I have to bite my tongue more than once. 

In spite of the lemon concoction from hell, we all have a good time and the afternoon flies by.  It’s great to see everybody, even though we’re subjected to a lot of local gossip that really doesn’t mean much to many of us.  Gord tells his ‘sinking of the quad’ story a couple too many times.  He could have drowned, but because he didn’t, it’s a popular tale.   Poor Gord has grandchildren named Marcus and Darius.  At first I think he is talking about Roman emperors or gladiators or something.   Our friends Dan and Karen bring their 5 year old grandson whose name is Laughlin, pronounced Locklin.  He spends his time running up and down on the rocks until I’m sure he’s going to hurl himself into space, and fall and kill himself.   But he survives the afternoon with the rest of us.  Everyone finds our sign post extremely helpful.  I guess.  At least no one said it wasn’t.

 Later that night our generator quits and W. goes into panic mode until we discover it’s only a faulty plug in.  I don’t know why I’m even mentioning it, except that it was kind of fun watching him freak out.  Maybe I thought so because of all the rum I’d consumed.  Hard to say.

The next entry (the following day) in my journal is the shortest one yet.  I feel completely wiped for the first time, but instead of blaming it on the fact that W. and I went out in the boat in the hot sun to a place where we picked up a bunch of flat black shale rock, I think it might be because my sister and I later discussed all our old boyfriends.  That would exhaust anybody.

The next few days are the last for Ann and M. at the island – M. has to be back for the long weekend to help coach a ball team in some tournament.  The deer and her fawns (did I mention there are two of them?) continue to be a brilliant combination of bold and elusive.  They have been right up on the back lawn playing,  but when you reach for the camera they all scamper out of range.  Ann and I go for another walk, this time out to the west point of the island and on our way back see the deer family cavorting on the little beach.  We’re too far away to get a picture, and by the time we get to the bluff above the beach they’re gone.  So I take a picture of where they were.

Silly, I know.  Their tracks are all over that sand spit.  You’ll just have to take my word for it. 

The morning that Ann and M. leave, we make a quick list of things to do for next year.  Bring more bug spray and after-bite.  Tackle another flower bed.  Paint a picture of a train on the old saw blade we found.  Play bocci ball!  We never got around to it this time.  M. has some interesting rules we’d like to try.  Get a gazebo so we can set up a little art studio we don’t have to keep moving from place to place.  I have purposely saved a couple of projects to tackle for when they’re gone so I won’t just mope around missing them.  I have not had to go fishing once!  Haven’t even held a rod in my hands.  I’m going for a new record.

Surprisingly enough, W. and I don’t actually bore eachother to death in the four days we spend with just the two of us there.  I repaint the thunderbird rock, in the hot sun (duh) and need quite a lot of liquid refreshment to recuperate from that. 

Then I go down close to shore and paint a green monster – or something – on a rock that’s below the high water line, so that it could be submerged the next time we come.  Perhaps that would be a good thing.

W. tries to cut me off from rock painting for this visit, but I’m relentless, and do a happy face wearing sunglasses surrounded by butterflies before I admit that it’s time to quit.  We spend a couple of hours building a new fire pit with the flat rocks we collected.  Too bad I didn’t think to take a picture of that – it was pretty awesome as far as fire pits go.

On Canada Day eve we get a terrific thunderstorm.  Sheet lightning everywhere, and incredible rumbling crashing thunder with pouring rain.  The next day I discover I’ve left one of my books out on the deck through all that and I’m totally distraught.  I spend all day drying it page by page in the sun. 

Although we’ve been given strict instructions by MIL to take absolutely everything that even vaguely resembles food home with us, so that she doesn’t have to cart any perishables back to her house, we aren’t able to spend our last day cleaning up odds and ends from the fridge, because she brings pizza.  That was nice, but it also gives her an excuse to bitch about whatever we leave.  Honestly.  Throw the damned stuff out.  We know that W.’s sister and her family are arriving in a couple of days, so we leave her a note to use whatever they like and throw the rest of it away.  MIL is totally unable to throw out anything.  If you saw her house you would have no problem believing that.  But that’s a whole other story.

We head home on Sunday.  Neither of us has to be back to work until Wednesday, so a day or two at home will be nice to get our heads back in non-vacation mode.    

Well, that’s it!  That’s all she wrote. 

Camp Log 3

July 07

Camp Log 2006, Part Three

On the Sunday following our arrival it rains all day long.  The guys go fishing because, let’s face it, men in general don’t know enough to come in out of the rain, and Ann and I scrounge around for some fun rainy day indoor stuff to do.  We watch a movie (The 40 Year Old Virgin) on my little battery operated DVD player.  The sound is pretty bad,  so we play it with sub-titles.  Then we decide to paint sun catchers.   Despite the fact that the sun catcher package says adult supervision required, they don’t turn out too bad at all.  We eventually get around to stringing them up with fishing line on a wire hanger.

Very classy addition to the decor.  We both take a solemn oath to never attempt this mind numbingly boring activity again, and both of us, with now severe cases of cabin fever, go out and sit on the deck in the rain.  Where the guys come home to find us, and wonder why we don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

Monday is day one of shingling the roof.  What a production.  The guys haul over scaffolding, the nail gun apparatus, all the shingles and various tools and paraphernalia.  Ann and I wander off until we think we’ve gone a sufficient distance so as to be out of range for being asked to do anything helpful.  We paint rocks.  Rock painting has become a favourite camp activity for me.  There’s nothing but blank canvases everywhere you look, and often when you’re in the process of creating a small masterpiece, people will wander by to see how things are progressing and offer you refreshments.  That’s why I refer to one particular rock as the rum rock, because it took about four rum and cokes originally to complete it.  The paint has all faded, so I decide to give it a facelift.

Hmm.  It ends up looking like some kind of a demented goalie mask.

I also touch up the stick people – four of which are shown above.  There are many many more.  Think “invasion of the stick people” and you’ll have the right idea.  In the next few days we add even more, and gather driftwood for a sign, and put stepping-stones up one of the pathways to the cottage.

YES!  We have gone project crazy!!  And this is turning into a vacation slide-show from hell.  But please open your eyes for just a minute, so you can see our little cat and dog solar glow balls by the steps, and the wind chime way up there at the top of our stairway.   Okay.  You can doze off again.  I was going to add one of W. on the roof with a wet towel tied around his head, with the ends hanging down, so that he looks like a cross between a terrorist and Willie Nelson.  But probably just talking about that will leave you with a disturbing mental image for days.

The roof gets completed (it takes two days), we make plans for the flower beds, and take walks around the island and some pictures of the eagle’s nest.  And Canada Geese families.  And then we paint a big plastic barrel black in preparation for building our outdoor shower.  We declare tomorrow “Sit-On-Your-Ass-And-Do-Dick-All-Day”.  But of course that doesn’t happen.  Because it is W.’s mom’s birthday on Saturday and we have to prepare for our gala barbecue on the deck.  I think I’ll spare you those pictures too – a bunch of drunken friends and relatives sitting around in the sun.  Tomorrow we’re going to Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire!!  And we’re going to stop by the house in town to have REAL showers with ACTUAL HOT WATER!!  Be still my heart.

Camp Log 2

July 05

Camp Log 2006, Part Two

Our first evening at camp is so hot and muggy and close, with no breeze at all, that it puts me into a kind of lethargic state of semi consciousness.  Not W.  He keeps thinking of stuff that needs to be done and hopping up and going off somewhere and showing up several minutes later wearing one less article of clothing.  Eventually he is down to just his underwear.  Seriously.  And standing under the sprinkler.  At one point in our relationship I might have found this type of behaviour interesting to watch, but now I just pray the neighbors across the river don’t have binoculars.

We are up at the crack of dawn the next morning.  It rained overnight, and the deck is still very wet, but it’s impossible to drink your morning coffee anywhere else. Our new wind chimes are not nearly as loud and annoying as we thought they might be.  It takes quite a strong breeze to move them, and then they’re actually soft and mellow sounding.  So I guess 12 feet away from the deck on the ‘swing’ tree is going to be their home, rather than lost somewhere in the forest.

The reason we are up so early is that W.’s “friend” Benny somebody or other flies his little plane directly over the cottage when he sees the flag is up and knows that there’s someone there.  At this point we don’t know that his religion is annoying the hell out of people and that he is very devout.  So the first couple of times it’s funny when he roars by overhead sounding like he’s going to take the roof off.  But he does this EVERY SINGLE DAY  for the entire time we are there.  The earliest is at 6:15, but 6:30 and 6:45 a.m. seem to be his favourite times.  So instead of starting each day saying good morning with a smile, we become accustomed to saying “Benny, you ASSHOLE” and shaking our fists at the sky.  There are trains that go by across the river at all times of the night and day, and we always get used to them after a couple of days.   Unfortunately, there is no getting used to Benny.  One day, just as a variation, Benny taxis down right in front of our island, revs up his engines and takes off from the water with a truly deafening racket.

W.’s mom and dad come over around 10:00 a.m.  It’s another hot day, but wonderfully windy.  We discover a mallard and her nest under a Caragana bush right on the near edge of the west lawn.  We have no idea how long she may have been there but I’m sure she must be surprised at the sudden activity so close by.  We make a point of trying to disturb her as little as possible, and thankfully she doesn’t abandon her seven eggs.  There are pelicans flying overhead.  The deer wanders by on the back lawn which I have just recently mowed.  I consume a few bottles of water and a couple of coolers called ‘blood oranges’, a mixture of bacardi rum, peach and mango.  I decide several of those could make you ill.  So I switch to rum and pepsi.  For my health.

Every time I see my father in law I learn something unexpectedly.  He talks and talks until you want to beg him to please, if there is a point, GET TO IT!  He might, he might not.  But every so often there’s some little gem.  He starts boasting about how he can still get into the pants he wore before he got married.  Mind you, he muses, I always wore things that were hand me downs and several sizes too big…..  I love it.  What a GREAT idea!  Brides could get a wedding dress two sizes too large and years later put it on and brag that it still fits!!

Finally, late in the afternoon, my sister and her husband arrive.  YAY!!   Now there’s no way in the world I can keep up a daily record because when we get together we never shut up.  Ann has come bearing gifts – a beautiful wooden treasure chest, and two solar-powered garden lights, in the shape of a cat and a dog, with marbles for eyes, and big glow ball bodies.  My brother-in-law M. is quick to point out that the dog’s nose looks like a miniature penis.  Gah. It does.   I decide I will have to bring the treasure chest home with me and fill it up with treasure.  Grandmas are expected to do such things after all.  The wind dies right down to nothing and we sit on the deck until it’s dark and cool and the bugs come out.  There are millions of fire flies.  We are able to walk right up to the mallard’s bush and see her sitting on the nest.  She must know we’re not a threat, except maybe to her sanity, but nothing physical.

We have lots of plans for our couple of weeks together.  The roof needs to be shingled, the flower beds need serious work, there is an outdoor shower to design and build.  Fish to be caught.  Beer to be consumed.  From experience we know the days fly by, and we promise to make the most of every one of them.

There is a duck there, I swear.  Bottom center you can see her head and an eyeball.

Camp Log 1

July 04

Camp Log 2006, Part One

I took a travel journal with me on our trip to Ontario.  Man.  Blogging is so much easier than actually picking up a pen and legibly writing stuff down.  Halfway slogging through sentences I’d forget what I was going to say.  Having written something stupid I’d realize there’s no backspace key.  Knowing that, and trying to write only non stupid things, slowed me down even more.   Somehow I managed to blather on for almost 30 pages.  So I’m adding the 2006 vacation to my illustrious history.  Jumping with both feet right into the present from my murky past.  I’ll be referring to my scribblings, not copying them word for word,  and editing and adding and revising.  You’ll just have to trust me that the absolute truth as I recorded it would bore you to tears.   I’m already boring myself, and I haven’t even gotten started.

Okay.  The night before, which was actually the day of our departure, because it was already past midnight, I took pen in hand and talked about my insomnia before going away somewhere.  And also about how I painted my toenails because that is something you HAVE to do the night before you go on vacation.  I think it’s probably a pre-vacation rule in some cultures.  The shade was a really interesting rusty-red.  It is now chipped and faded and looks quite disgusting and there’s an ugly scar on one of my big toes where I dropped a rock on my foot.  But on June 15th there are no battle scars yet.  We get up at 5:00 a.m.  At 7:00 we still have not left the city.  W. loves to run around all over the place at the last minute while I sigh audibly and roll my eyes and ask him why he didn’t do all this stuff yesterday.  He painstakingly explains to me why he never fills the gas tank completely because the truck runs better without the extra weight.  I cannot even comment on this.  I just do some deep breathing and admire my toenails all the way to Lloydminster.

In Saskatoon we take a little detour somewhere in the middle of construction and have to find our way back onto Circle Drive.  We see the sign just fine the second time around.  I like to talk when I travel.  W. doesn’t.  We see a pre-fab house and I wonder what a small one would cost, and how we could float it across to the island.  And where we should put it if we could get the damned thing up the hill.  Maybe we could fill up the foundation of the old house with cement and put the pre-fab house there.  It would be great to have some extra accommodation space.  And since W. is not listening, I suggest we put it there while the cement is still wet so that the house sticks to it when it dries.  Then I ask him if he thinks I should have a job in the field of construction.  He says no.

Early in the afternoon, around Dundurn, we are passed by bikes and bikes of Hell’s Angels.  They look like flocks of black crows zipping down the highway, buffeted by the wind.  I suggest they’re going on a picnic and W. just snorts.  We see a semi that went off the road and flipped over.  Yikes.  We drive through pouring rain and into the sunshine.  I want to know why all the big fat gross bugs splat on MY side of the windshield.  W. drives and drives and drives.  I doze on and off.  Every time I open my eyes we appear to be in the exact same place.  Saskatchewan on the trans Canada has got to be the most boring place to drive through on the face of God’s green earth.  At 7:30 we arrive in Brandon, Manitoba, home of…..I don’t know, some museums and stuff.  At this point I don’t care.  We check into the Comfort Inn and hear there are thunderstorm warnings in Cartwright, Kilarney, Mather and Turtle Mountain.  I wonder who names these places.  There is also a tornado watch somewhere complete with looney sized hail, but not here, and I expect that’s what it might take to wake me up tonight.  I get tired of listening to W. reading the entire weather channel and crash.  I can’t imagine how tired I’d be if I had done any actual driving.

If the desk clerk is to be believed, and why would she lie, there was booming thunder and a crazy light show complete with pouring rain over night.  Our air conditioner was so loud we heard nothing.  Not even each other snoring.  Bonus.  They should advertise that.  We’re off to Winnipeg.   When we get there we stop and buy groceries and pack our coolers with perishables and head for Kenora.  I may not be able to continue my travel memoir because I expect at any moment that the humidity is going to kill me.  W. asks me what the hell I’m writing.  I tell him I’m writing down EVERY SINGLE WORD HE SAYS.   That shuts him up completely for almost an hour.  In Keewatin we make our last and most important stops for booze and ice.

At 3:47 p.m. I am sitting on the deck although there’s still a thousand things to do.  The deer was on the side lawn when we came up the hill.  W. is being SO nice to me – he’s gone back over to load stuff into the boat himself.  I strongly suspect I just get in the way, so I don’t argue.  It always hits me when I’m here – I do love this place.  The water level is way down compared to last year, so the island seems bigger.  I hope this trip W. brings the spiced rum.  I send telepathic messages across the water.

At 4:16 W. is still over there gabbing with somebody and I decide it might be a good idea to pitch my watch into the river if I’m going to have to live with Mr. Fromadifferenttimezone up close and personal for the next 20 days.  There is cold beer in the fridge.  Thank you Darcy!  Thank God my father in law has his priorities straight.

The guy W. was talking to for so long turns out to be Dan, from two islands down.  His dad and W.’s dad were army buddies, and Dan and his wife actually live on their island, and we sometimes rent one of their cottages when we have lots of visitors.  He helps W. haul stuff up the hill and all I have to do is put it away.  It’s hot and muggy and the grass needs water.  We sit around staring at it for awhile.  Time slows down to a crawl.  We take pictures of a tree frog on the window sill.  He finally hops off in a flash blinded daze.  Then we hear the best best BEST sound ever.  The call of the loons.  Last year the water level was so high it destroyed their nests, but they’re back.  And we’re back.  And life is good.

CI Critique

July 11

Kenzie Critiques an Episode of Canadian Idol

I ask my five year old granddaughter if she would like to watch a tv show with me. With a five-year old, there’s a way to do this to elicit the response you want.  “Hey!”  I exclaim.  “I have a GREAT idea!  Let’s watch CANADIAN IDOL!”  Already she’s thinking it must be something exciting and fun.  I explain to her that there will be some girls singing songs.  Little girls? she wants to know.  No, I tell her, they’re not little like you,  they’re more like Aunt Courtney (she LOVES Aunt Courtney).  I tell her that, while we’re watching,  she can tell me who she likes and who she doesn’t like, and I’ll write down her comments.  “I say stuff and you write it down?”  She’s grinning from ear to ear.  She dictates letters to her cousin that her mom writes down word for word.  It’s wonderful to hear what you’ve said read back to you.   So it’s a go.

I settle down with pen in hand and we suffer through the preliminaries.  “Why are people talking?  You said girls would sing,” she says, just a TAD pouty.  And then YAY!  Here comes Steffi D.  Kenzie is thrilled because she has a red bow in her hair and looks like Snow White.   Did you like her singing?  It was nice.  I like her.  But I don’t like to put stuff in MY hair.  Sometimes it hurts.

Next up is Ashley Coles.   Grandma!  She’s got on a Barbie dress and high heels!  I wish I had high heels like that.  (Did you like her singing?)  She ponders this one.  Frowns.  I don’t think so.   I wish she would sing like the Doodlebops.   But I LOVE her dress.  Can we go to the dollar store tomorrow and buy high heels?  PLEASE????

When a Monster House movie trailer comes on it’s apparent that this is the highlight for Kenzie so far.  Then Ashley Coulter appears on the screen and suddenly it’s time for a bathroom break.  She takes off upstairs and is gone for quite sometime, and grandpa tells me later it was also a play break.   I thought maybe I’d lost her for the duration of the show, but she wanders back down when Nancy Silverman is halfway through her performance.  She watches some of the gyrations and wants to know if that girl is itchy.  Then she tells me that she has a skirt like Nancy has on, but hers is nicer because it’s pink.  I remind her that this isn’t a fashion show, and we’re supposed to be talking about the singing parts.  She says okay.

Next is Eva Avila.  Kenzie RAVES about Eva’s singing.  I like her!  No, I LOVE her!  She’s a really really really good singer.  Grandma, can I have a paper and a pen too?  While I’m getting her stuff she tells me that she likes Farley.  He has on a really nice shirt.  Then she tells me she doesn’t like Zack.  She says he’s weird.  And she doesn’t think he’s very nice.  He doesn’t smile.  Farley smiles a lot.

Now there’s a “Little Man” commercial and Kenzie laughs hysterically.  She wants to know if this show is on at her house too, and when is it on, and maybe mommy will watch it with her.  (Ha ha – mommy will NOT be thanking me for this.)  When Kati Dunst sings, Kenzie is busy “taking notes”.  I ask her how she likes this singer.  When she looks up she tells me that there’s a whole lot of people there and she would be really nervous if she had to sing with all those people looking at her.  I agree with her, it would be scary.   But do you like Kati?  Yep.  She goes back to her notes.

Finally up is Sarah Loverock.  Kenzie thinks her name is funny.  She is very impressed with her jean jacket.  She says Sarah can sing really loud.  Can she go back upstairs now?  I convince her to stay for the recap, and she squeals in delight “There’s that girl with the red bow!  There’s the Barbie one!”  The rest don’t get comments.  I ask her who she likes the best, and she says for sure it is the girl with the jacket.  Sarah.  She has a friend named Sarah.  But her last name isn’t funny.

I ask Kenzie if she wants me to read her comments back to her, and she politely declines.  So I ask her if I can read HER notes.  No problem.  Here you go, grandma.

“It’s a butterfly in the grass.  He has lots of legs.”    Well, aren’t you the little multi-tasker.  No honey, that’s not a bad word, it just means you’re very smart because you can do two or three things at once.  I’m rewarded with a huge smile.  If you watch the boys sing tomorrow night with your mom, make sure to take notes for me!  She promises she will.

TGIF

June 02

T.G.I.F.

Thank.God.I’m.Feline.

by Ben Zulu (I do SO have a brain) Black Cat Extraordinaire

Yes, I am a CAT.  Maybe in your next life you will be so lucky.  I was an abandoned kitten, rescued by the SPCA (super people for cat adoption) and rescued yet again by a boy who, like me, saw nothing weird about falling asleep in one’s litter box.  Momentary lapse.  Nap attacks happen, what can I say.

I have survived many hardships.  Trips into the big scary back yard.  Being locked in a closet.  Baths.  (Shudder).  I have outlived Ash, the big old grey battle-axe cat from hell.  She taught me humility, subservience, and how to accept the blame for EVERYTHING.  The only mother figure I have ever known has bequeathed me all her old hiding places for my myriad of inexplicable fears.  But hey – I’m a cat – I don’t have to explain anything.   Now my life is mostly blissful.  As a cat’s life should be, of course.

Over the years I have developed a complicated communication system and a sophisticated two or three word cat language to inform my servants of my every need.  It’s not my fault that my telepathic powers are strong and their interpretive skills are weak.  When I want something I yowl.  Sometimes these people are so slow to figure out what I’m going on about that I forget myself what it was that was so damned important.

But, come on people, it’s not a long list.

1.   I am starving.  Feed me, for the love of God.

2.   My water bottle is empty.

3.   My litter box is full.

4.   Someone just left the house.  I could quite possibly be all alone!  Tell me to shut up so I know you’re here!

5.   If you don’t feed me NOW, I will die.  I swear, I will just keel over and DIE.

6.   I heard thunder.  Or a bird.  Or maybe just my tummy grumbling. Yowling will make it all better.  Throwing up all that extra cat chow I ate mindlessly five minutes ago might also help.

7.   I strongly suspect, using my great powers of deduction, that since there is a dog person in the house, there could very possibly be a dog skulking about somewhere.  I will yowl from one of my many undisclosed hiding places until I hear these magic words:  “Ben, cut it out!  The dog is gone, you moron!”

8.   I’m wasting away here.  Did you feed me today already?  Are you SURE?

9.   GAH!!! Human with nail clippers and cat brush approaching!  RED ALERT!

10.  There is no reason for yowl number 10, except that it is my god-given right as a feline to yowl whenever the mood strikes, day or night.  So get a grip and deal with it.  And don’t even THINK about taking me to the vet.  You don’t really want to listen to that yowl again, do you?

Oh yeah – back to why it’s great to be a cat.  Sorry if the TGIF title misled you.  Like I ever need to know what day it is. I get to sit and stare at walls whenever I want.  I can play with just about anything, except cat toys which bore the hell out of me unless they’re chock full of cat nip, in which case they are mildly amusing.  I can deposit black cat hair anywhere, just by being there.  It has become my mission in life to cover every surface in this house with bits of my beautiful black coat.  I will beat the vacuum cleaner.  It is foolish to think that a machine can defeat me.  I can curl up on laps and purr and snooze, and get my neck rubbed and my ears scratched…….

I have the most delightful little cat bed with a crinkly bottom that makes the most delicious crinkly noise when I step into it, and I have suddenly been hit with the strongest urge to just crawl in there and stretch and yawn and flex my claws and close my eyes………and…..was that the can opener?……nope….just one of those intoxicating dream sounds…..and you have to go to work?  Awww…..it sucks to be you.     Zzzzzzzzzz.

Deja Vu

The top picture is me and D. at camp, 1974.  Bottom picture is D. and Kenzie, 2001.  There was something so familiar about the second one that it prompted us to go searching for the first.  I now have them both in the same frame, and it’s one of my favourites.  If Kenzie ever has a daughter, I expect we’ll force her to wear her hair like this and carry on the pose.

Having Babies

Having Babies: Part One

Okay,  where was I?  Brand new parents to a baby girl with more character than either of us put together – from day one she had an attitude.  And great lungs and a temper.  We knew lots about parenting, but nothing about actually BEING parents.   Any child is a challenge, but in hindsight I know D. was more than the usual handful.  Our spirited child.  Isn’t that a lovely way to describe it?

W. had another year of university to complete.  I had to go right back to work in a mere four weeks.  My mom came to stay with us for a few days after D. was born.  After she left, I stood staring at my sleeping daughter and was overcome with the enormity of the responsibility we were taking on.  This little life in MY hands?   What was God thinking?  All the pent up emotions from the past months welled up and poured out.  I crawled into bed and refused to get up.  Poor W.  He put up with this emotional wreck of a new mom, bringing me food and my daughter when she got hungry, and blabbering away about post-partem depression, sounding like he was trying to convince himself more than me that we could get ourselves through this.  Two days of being a drama queen was about all even I could stand.  And that’s when we made one of the two most asinine decisions we’ve ever come up with, and packed up ourselves and our newborn and took a two-day car trip to visit W.’s parents.  They were thrilled to meet their first grandchild.  I was exhausted, mentally and physically and spent the entire time there in some kind of zombie state.  So D. was at our island and a little camper practically from day one.

As much as my mother-in-law bugs the living shit out of me most of the time, I must give her credit for loving her grandchildren in her own strange way.  And she did help me realize a very important thing.  My daughter would not cease to exist if she was out of my sight.  She would not die if I left her with someone else for an hour or two.  MIL forced me to go fishing with W.  There was no heart to heart little talk about anything – that’s never been her style.  But one morning she just said that I needed to get out, and W. needed to take me, and to get the hell out of here, D. will be just fine.  It’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a panic attack.  Leave my baby?  W. didn’t have to drag me kicking and screaming to the dock, but it came close.  We lasted almost an hour with me constantly freaked out that D. might be hungry, or screaming, or in whatever state it is babies might get themselves into when their mothers aren’t around – I couldn’t even imagine.  And with W., thoroughly exasperated, saying JEEZUS Lin, my mother had three kids.  I think she knows what she’s doing.  We got back to find D. peacefully sleeping, exactly how we had left her.  How freaking amazing is that?  I know my MIL was trying to help me get out from under the enormous weight of the pressure I was putting on myself, to let me breathe and trust someone else to help.  I had to do it when I went back to work, like it or not.

We were incredibly lucky to find a babysitter that I felt I could trust.  She had six kids of her own, all in school, and she was missing the baby thing.  Her name was Mrs. White.  Isn’t it funny that I don’t even remember her first name?  She looked after my daughter Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, for the first year of her life.  It was kind of nice to have someone else to blame for how spoiled she was.  I often wonder what effect this all had on D.  Sometimes when we picked her up she would look at us with that little frown of hers, as if to say, ‘who the heck are you guys again?’  It was not an easy thing to do.  I probably missed a whole lot of her “firsts”, although Mrs. White was very kind and never said anything about D. doing something new until I mentioned it first.  D. never slept longer than a six hour stretch, from midnight to 6 a.m. that first year.  Her naps were short, few and far between.  She was active, curious, easily frustrated, loud, demanding.  We just assumed that was normal, having not much to compare it with.  We did have some friends who came over with their little Rebecca, who was a month younger than D. although bigger, and a child that they could plunk on the floor and she would actually stay in one spot.  I remember we thought there must be something wrong with that kid.

It was a hectic year.  We were all sleep deprived.  I don’t know if that’s a good enough reason for being lax with the birth control.  I recall having vague thoughts about not wanting D. to be an only child, and that if I ever had to make a conscious decision to get pregnant again, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do it.  So I did it unconsciously.  W. finished his year and applied for a gazillion jobs.  He got two good offers.  One was a teaching position in Lindsay, Ontario.  The other was as a Wildlife Officer with the government of the NWT in Cambridge Bay.  And there you have the second most asinine decision we ever made.  How different might our lives have been, if we had gone left instead of right at that big fork in the road.  At the end of the summer, following D.’s first birthday, we headed north.  L & W’s Big Adventure begins.

Life As We Knew It Then

May 09

Life As We Knew It

We have great memories of living in Guelph, Ontario.  The first place we lived was an apartment in a high-rise.  We had very little furniture and we were dirt poor.  I was able to get a job right away at the Guelph Campus Co-op bookstore, and we immediately applied for co-op housing.  We had a car.  We made friends.  We had money for food and beer.  That’s what a student loan is all about isn’t it?

The Guelph skyline is dominated by the impressive Church of Our Lady.  I’ve never been inside it, but just looking at it always gave me a sense of serenity.  I have no idea why.

And the University Campus is quite beautiful.  I’m sure it has changed drastically in the years since we were there.  But there continues to be a wonderful sense of tradition.  The old buildings are kept in good repair, even if their function changes.

This is probably one of the oldest and best know buildings on campus, made into a coffee shop.  The co-op bookstore was fairly close, and I suppose it’s still there.  The only other landmarks  pertinent to this memoir would be the co-op student housing on Forest Drive, the Harvey’s restaurant, various pubs, and the Guelph General Hospital.

So picture the two of us.  I’m working full-time at the front desk at the bookstore, helping students find everything they’re looking for and loving being in on the hectic campus lifestyle.  W. is attending lectures and labs and any spare time at the library working, so that when we go home at night we can spend some quality time together, sitting on pillows on the floor watching our little black and white t.v. (which also sits on the floor) and more often than not, eating some kind of take-out.  Most weekends we feel like we deserve to party at least once.  Our friends aren’t picky, they’ll join us on the floor and drink our wine.  W. takes up smoking a pipe.  I find this hilarious.  My bearded pipe smoking biologist.  We smoke a lot of pot. We make wild plans to go to Africa and work for CUSO.   We drive up to my parent’s house every so often where my mom frets that we’re not eating right, so she stuffs us and our car so full of food we don’t have to eat or grocery shop for a week.  W.’s brother and his wife move to Hamilton where she works and he goes to school.  (We’re starting new family traditions.)  It’s great to have family close.  I find an incredibly beautiful long black belted pea coat at a thrift store for five dollars and I never take it off.  God I loved that coat.  Life was good.

So I guess that was the ‘life as we knew it’ that I’m referring to.  I don’t know why I thought it would go on and on.  Because suddenly – poof – it was done.  Time to finally grow up.  It was sometime before Christmas that I started to feel decidedly ill.  For over a week I was constantly nauseous, pale, tired, and weepy.  We’d just seen Love Story, so I imagined myself with some sort of fatal disease – our punishment for being so blithely happy.  I finally dragged my naive little butt to the doctor when a friend at work suggested I take a pregnancy test.  And that’s of course when all the signs and symptoms at last made perfect sense.  The very first things my doctor asked me were if this baby was planned, and was I happy about it and did I want it.  No, definitely not planned.  Too utterly stunned at the moment to think about the happy part.  But immediately protective, and enamoured, and committed.  I remember those feelings suddenly so strong it was as if someone had turned on a tap somewhere and they just flowed through me.  Of course I wanted it.  How could anyone imagine anything else?  W. picked me up after my appointment and just started driving.  I practically screamed at him….don’t you want to KNOW???  He said my face told him everything.  And he squeezed my hand and said everything would be okay.  And that started the crying that really didn’t stop for any great length of time for the next eight months.

Such ridiculously bad timing!  W. had two years of school to complete.  I had to work.  Neither of us had ever even talked about a child.  Life just seemed to keep happening to us.  I went home from my doctor appointment and threw my cigarettes in the garbage and then I phoned my mother.  Everyone kept asking me, are you happy about this?  Of course I was happy!!  Then why are you so miserable?  I DO NOT KNOW.  There are pregnant women who glow.  I was not one of them.  For me everything was a battle that I had to win.  I willed myself to not be sick.  I refused to take anything that remotely resembled a drug even if I had the worst headache of my life.  I gave up beer and wine and coffee and pop.  I started cooking vegetables and drinking milk.  I vowed to stay on my feet and work until the bitter end.

There’s a reason for a pregnancy being divided up into three trimesters.  The first three months are for getting used to the idea and dealing with the nausea.  Which could be a physical or a mental thing or a little of both.  The next three months are for reading everything you can get your hands on about pregnancy and delivery and nutrition and becoming an expert, especially if it’s your first one.  If there was a happy time for me, this was it.  Everything was new and interesting.  I could still see my feet.  The last three months, when ‘normal’ women do that strange glowing thing, were for me the most tedious, tiring, boring and miserable time of my entire life.  I don’t know how W. put up with me.    I did not like the physically awkward fat new me.  I didn’t want to admit how tired I was at work.  I wanted it to be over with.  My doctor actually said to me on one visit – don’t worry.  There has never been a case yet of a pregnancy that did not terminate.  I was sure I would be the first.  I would be pregnant forever.

The maternity leave rules back then were completely out to lunch, as far as I’m concerned.  I had to leave work six weeks before my due date, and return to work four weeks after that.  I did not need six weeks to wallow in self-pity.  That last month I sat in our basement apartment eating popsicles, drinking chocolate milk and watching game shows.  W. predicted our child would be born black and frozen, but with a high IQ.

We had gone  to pre-natal classes, because W. wanted to be with me for the delivery.  What a glutton for punishment he turned out to be!  I took my bad attitude with me all the way to the hospital, four days past my due date when I had abandoned all hope of ever seeing what the place looked like on the inside.   During labour I  informed him that if he ever did that to me again I would kill him.  And that’s when he shrugged and left the room and went to watch a baseball game in the waiting room.  Every labour pain after that I mentally strangled him.   He was smart enough not to come back until they gave me my epidural.

For every birth there is a different pregnancy and delivery story.  When you’re pregnant you get to hear them all, which means you’ve either already heard them or you may someday.  I won’t bore you with the sordid details.  Our daughter was born at 9:20 p.m. on the 27th of July.  She was the tiniest most beautiful little human being I had ever seen.  She scrunched up her little red face and screamed.  Even when she wasn’t yelling her eyebrows were pulled together in a mad little frown.  I was immediately a firm believer in the fact that a mother passes her moods on to her unborn child.

Top left is baby’s newborn frowny face.  Top right, the stunned new parents, with baby turning away thinking omg, why me.  Bottom left and right, new dad, new mom.  Baby thinking, okay, maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

Thunder Storms

April 27

Thunder Storms

I really don’t have anything much to say, just wanted to post this picture because I like it.

It’s a combination of two of my favourite nature type things, a sunset and a storm. 

My parents were always freaked out by thunderstorms when we were growing up and would wake us up during the worst ones and herd us all downstairs in the middle of the night so that if a tree was hit and fell on the house we’d all be in one spot.  I never saw the sense in that, thinking that if we were more spread out at least some of us would have a chance at survival.  Maybe it was their wish that we all die in a clump.  LOL.   I suppose it should have made me afraid of bad storms, but I kind of liked sitting together in the dark counting between lightning flashes and thunder rolls, waiting for the storm to move on.  Plus my brother would make gruesome faces that would be illuminated by the lightning to make us giggle.  We were easily entertained.  Lightning did actually strike a tree close to the house once, but it was a poor little peach tree that was only about seven feet tall;  it was split in two and didn’t survive.   It wasn’t uncommon for cows out in fields to be struck.  And for farmers to lose barns.  But little kids are mostly oblivious to such things. 

My husband doesn’t share my thunder storm fascination.  He runs around closing windows and unplugging things and swearing.  Come to think of it, there’s a lot of things he does while swearing, but that’s a whole other topic.   My son always slept right through even the worst thunderstorms,  while my daughter and I would sit at the living room window and enjoy the show.  There’s just something about the banging, crackling, crashing and flashing that stirs your soul.