Hello World (v3.0)

3 years gone, but we’re just going to keep swimming

Hey all, it’s been a while (years) since I’ve posted, but I’ve decided that new year new post seems like a plan. Especially since there’s no way to start the new year off with a half-assed attempt at going to the gym. Instead of buying a year of gym membership, of which I’ll use between 3 and 5 days in January, I figured I’d stay home. For once, it’s actually better for my health.

Why did I stop writing? Eeeh… nothing terrible. Life. Living alone = having to do all your own cooking and cleaning, and then there’s the draw of the couch and the tv and scrolling endlessly through social media… we’ve all lost hours to that particular Lotus blossom, right?

I seriously considered starting off on an entirely new blog, because there are a few people I know in person who started following this one near the end of my consistent writing schedule. We’re instead going to pretend that there is no one from my off-line-life checking in on this, because self-consciousness slows my roll.

While we’re pretending years didn’t go by between blog posts, I’ll still give a brief update.

Gwynn’s love of mud – eternal

The dog is dogging along. He has loved the pandemic, as it allows him to nap on the couch beside my desk while I put in my working hours. He’s 11! This makes people’s “… months?” response to his age just get better and better. He’s slowed down a bit, but he’s still enjoying his long walks and hikes, as well as some fun agility lessons.

The family is good now, though we went through a very rough stretch. My mom is down a kidney, my sister is up a kidney. One of the other health scares proved insurmountable, while the other few did not.

As mentioned in one of my most recent posts, I did move out of the city, and am loving it. I’m curled up between mountain and waves (well… “mountain”), with trails galore and an outdoor activity for every season. Since moving north, I bought a house, took up curling (the most rural-Ontarian winter social), and discovered that my green thumb wasn’t black, it was just severely challenged by living in the twilight of old-growth trees and woodlands. Living in a 15 year old suburb means that my back yard is South-facing and Full Sun. Yes, the lovely people working at the annual gardening club fundraiser sale were very excited. Indoor plants are also delighted with the lighting.

Covid – my sister got temporarily laid off at the first shutdown, and moved up to my place for a few months. This was great, as living alone during the most isolated part of covid would have been a lot more challenging. It was also great because I had chosen early march to start painting my house, and having a second person there to help with it meant that painting got finished in time for me to set up an at home work station. My work switched to being fully from home, and while some people have gone back into the office, I have not yet. With round two in full swing, I think it’ll be another month or two before I do start working in-office part of the time, but we’ll see!

Directly beside my home-office chair

What’s the new game plan, Stan?

Short stories will definitely recommence. I’ll find some new writing prompts, reconnect with some old ones and get back in the habit. Drag myself from my giant funk of apathy and do the things I enjoy doing.

House and DIY and Crafts – Having my own place means I’ve actually gotten to do some things like switching out lights and doing my own garden beds. I’m planning to do more of this, and you might see some posts documenting things I’ve done around the house. Also sewing – I’ve recently taken up sewing (along with everyone else, I’ve been making masks, but am also trying to expand into clothing and things).

Thoughts on de-popcorn-ing ceilings? Dusty. But at least I was fashionable while doing it.

I plan to start posting more frequently about things I enjoy. This is likely to include:

Podcasts – I upped my walk lengths by adding podcasts to my listening habits, and am a bit addicted. I try to support them where I can, and figure that I can improve my support of them by recommending them to you all! I listen to a pretty broad range of things, so if podcasts are a thing you like, at least one will likely be up your alley. Unless your alley is true-crime. I just can’t get into that.

Books – I’ll likely recommend books and series that I’ve read. If you’ve written a sci fi or fantasy novel, and want an honest review of it – definitely reach out! I would prefer if it’s available on the library system, because I’m really trying to keep the volume of things I own down.

Angel-wing Begonia

Stuff – as mentioned above, I’m really trying to reduce my buying wherever possible, but when I do find a thing I like and that genuinely works well, I’ll bring it up! Stay tuned for Lexy’s rant about the amazingness of Aftershockz Trekz Titanium. This is not where I’m suggesting people who make things send me their stuff for review. I genuinely… do not want stuff. Unless it’s plants. Want me to review your Hoya Carnosa Compacta? Send ‘er on over.

This is all, I guess. Seeing as how this is set up to post on new years’ day, and assuming I get a flock of visitors, let me end on this:

“The same boiling water that softens the potato will harden the egg.”

– unknown

I try to remember that when I start stressing about resolutions or healthy habits or whatever. Be kind to yourselves!

Children

I recently had an experience that reminded me how important it is to be a parent.  I am not a parent, just to be clear.  I just spend a lot of time in parks, and in the neighbourhood so I have plenty of opportunity to judge them.

You (in general), as a parent, are responsible for teaching a brand new person the ins and outs of life, and interacting with the world.  That’s a big thing!

Scene 1:

I was walking Gwynn through High Park after he’d gotten his spring hair cut this year.  Right out of his haircut, he looks like the most delightful teddy bear on earth to cuddle and squeeze and pet.  Beautiful day, tons of people around, and I was on my way to the dog off-leash area to let him run around a bit (and, as is inevitable, get some mud on the wheels, as it were.).

With that many people around I pay a lot of attention – make sure to keep Gwynn close when walking past that person who is looking nervous of him, or that kid holding an ice cream cone at dog-level, etc.

So I noticed when a girl – probably about 10 – locked on to Gwynn and began speed-walking away from her mother and directly towards Gwynn (from behind him), hands already outstretched.

Gwynn is friendly.  But He. Is. A. Dog.  And coming up behind a strange animal and surprising him with a random pet from a stranger?  Nuh uh.  And this is where I judge the kid’s mom, and intercede in the teaching of life-interactions.

Placing myself between Gwynn and the little girl, I told/asked her, “You know you always need to ask permission before going near a strange dog?  Right?*

I got a blank look in response to this, but at least she’d stopped moving forward.

“You have to ask, because the dog might be scared of people, or mean, or sick, or not like kids or surprises, but if you ask, I might say yes,” I add, when it becomes clear that Mom isn’t taking advantage of this teachable moment.

I get through to her.  “Can I pet your dog?” she asks.

“Absolutely!  He’s very friendly.”

End scene.  I really hope I got through to her, but frankly, I. Am. Not. Her. Parent.  or friend, or relative, or teacher/person of authority in her life.  There is just as much chance that she will go off and complain with her mom about that weird rude (possibly even that B word) who tried to lecture her about dogs, when her dog isn’t even not-friendly, so why? why?  And if her parents aren’t bothering with agreeing with me on this, then why would she?

20140524_123948
Why yes, he is friendly… but I’m friendly too until a stranger surprise-touches my butt

Scene 2:

Gwynn and I are walking through the park near me last weekend, on a pretty high traffic multi-use trail.  Enter a little boy on a bicycle going the opposite direction to us.  I moved off to the side, but that wasn’t necessary, because he came to a stop, dropped his bike and says, “Hi,  my name is (Let’s call him Timmy), can I pet your dog?”

Delighted, I said, “Yes!  And thank you for asking!  His name is Gwynn.”  And we spent the next few minutes talking about Gwynn, and bicycles.

Younger brother caught up, asked the same question, and, getting another enthusiastic YES-and-thank-you, started walking with his bike towards Gwynn.  Mom shows up on her bike at this point, and immediately says, “Stop and put your bike down, you’ll make the dog nervous.”

Brilliant.  As I walked away, I overheard the older kid telling his mom about how “That lady with the dog thanked me for asking if I could pet him!”

It warms the cockles of my heart, it does indeed.

directly after grooming
directly after grooming… everyone wants to touch him

In conclusion:

Parents: teach your kids proper animal etiquette.  Always ask, and always be gentle with animals are the rules they need the most.  And try not to pass your own fears of animals on to them.  Also, you are doing a fantastic job, in general (not that my opinion matters, here, but still.), at raising children and handling the screaming and the constant energy and the many MANY ‘Why?’ questions, and oh god, it just seems exhausting.

People with dogs: also educate kids if they don’t seem to know about the ask rule… and if they do know – make sure to let them know that them doing the right thing is AWESOME.  Because sometimes hearing something from a stranger can reinforce good behaviours that parents are teaching.

*Blog readers – you know this, yes?  If you didn’t before, you know now.  “Is your dog friendly?”, “Can/May I pet your dog?”… “Is it ok for my (child too young to speak coherently especially to strangers) to say hello to your dog?” And, regardless of what size a dog is, how happy he seems to be to see you, and how experienced you are with dogs, if the owner says ‘no’, then give them space!

A family History of Pets II

my aunt, and the dog before Mippy.  I suspect the conversation here would be, "Do you think we'll see santa?"... "santa?  I thought we were waiting for the butcher's truck!"
my aunt, and the dog before Mippy. I suspect the conversation here would be, “Do you think we’ll see santa?”… “santa? I thought we were waiting for the butcher’s truck!”

When my mom was very young, my grandfather got her a British bulldog with a pedigree and the papers to prove it.  His name was Mippy, and he was definitely not a bulldog.  I don’t think my grandfather had much experience in bulldogs.  I bet he thought their previous dog had been a ‘British bulldog’ too.  I never met him, but clearly he had a keen interest in knowing dog breeds.  They probably  guessed that he was a pit bull type dog when the police officer who came to their door jumped backwards off their porch and halfway across their lawn upon being met at the door by a small child restraining a loudly barking Mippy by the collar.

even in black and white - it's definitely the 'we got a dog!' pic
even in black and white – it’s definitely the ‘we got a dog!’ pic

In the rural south, at that time, you let your dog out in the morning and he roamed the fence-less neighbourhood in a pack of dogs until sometime around supper.  He had firm ideas of who he did and did not like, and he was very protective of the family.  Years and years later, my uncle found out that his friend, who Mippy wouldn’t allow into the house at all, had been in and out of prison for various assault charges since shortly after they’d lost touch in their teens.  Mippy seemed a bit fierce, but he loved his family just as fiercely, and, typical of a ‘nanny dog’ (an old term for pitties), kept the kids from playing too close to the street and kept watch over them.  He also trapped a would-be burglar by the hand in the door of their home for over two hours before the family returned home one time.  Looking at old pictures of my mom and Mippy, it is very clear that he was a lot more pit than brit… and that he was a wonderful family pet.

not to derail this post into an anti breed-specific-legislation post or anything like that... but you can tell those kids are in danger for their lives with that vicious animal at their feet, right?
not to derail this post into an anti breed-specific-legislation post or anything like that… but you can tell those kids are in danger for their lives with that vicious animal at their feet, right?

In a somewhat incomprehensible Easter tradition, my mother and aunt got goslings one year.  I don’t know if it’s still like that, but you could, at the time, give your kids chicks that had been dyed pink or blue as well, though thankfully theirs were not coloured.  Unlike most of the chicks given to children for Easter, theirs grew happily and healthily into adulthood, and eventually lived out their lives in the pond at a nearby park.  The family also raised and bred siamese cats, who, being southern, were adressed by the children as Miss May and Miss Lily, and Miss-whatever.  Because you don’t just address an adult by their first name, that would be impolite.

a few of the 'misses cat' and my mum
a few of the ‘misses cat’ and my mum

Growing up, my mother and her siblings always had cats, along with a variety of caught-lizards, frogs, chipmunks, and, very briefly, a snapping turtle that barely fit into the old bathtub they’d found for him.  That particular adoption of the wildlife ended when my grandmother demonstrated how easily the turtle could snap up an entire frozen sausage (aka finger).

Mippy and a kitten
Mippy and a kitten

My uncle got his scout badge for snake bite treatment when he had to actually treat my mother’s rattler bite.  She’s still got a scar on her knee from the teeth.  They all paid far too little attention to the seriousness of poisonous snakes in their barefoot romps through the bamboo swamp out back of their house, the one whose owner waded through the murky waters in hip-waders and used a shotgun to kill the Copperheads that lived there.  My mother is now terrified of all snakes.  We once found a tiny snake under one of our tents.  She became convinced (despite the tent’s being in Northern Ontario) that it was a copperhead.  A baby copperhead.  On the plus side, she let us catch it to bring to the nature center, and she never usually let us catch snakes.  We found out that Southern Ringneck Snakes are harmless and quite unusual to spot.

Moving to Canada, my mother’s family continued to breed Siamese cats.  When they went on a monthlong trip to Europe, they filled a massive trough in the basement with cat food and left the cat doors open. They came home to a mostly empty trough and the remains of a variety of small birds and rodents the cats had been supplementing their diet with.  Different times.

my mum and a calf.  She claims she never tipped any of the cows - she only watched as her cousins did so.
my mum and a calf. She claims she never tipped any of the cows – she only watched as her cousins did so.

My grandmother’s family has a farm in northern Manitoba, cattle.  Once they were up in Canada, my mother spent a number of her summers at the farm.  The family farm, as you’d expect, had a dog.  Hector.  As you might also imagine, there have been many farm dogs since the first dog to be acquired by the first farmer.  But still, Hector.

Hector
Hector

Also Hector... just a different one
Also Hector… just a different one.  My mom’s on the right, holding a cat.

Hector - though they usually do stick to border collies, so this guy (or gal... they didn't have an alternate girl name) was an exception to the usual rule
Hector – though they usually do stick to border collies, so this guy (or gal… they didn’t have an alternate girl name) was an exception to the usual rule

One of my favourite stories growing up was about my mother and aunt showing up at the farm for a funeral, the first time they’d been there in quite a few years.  No-one was home, so they found the hidden key, went in, and hung around until someone came home.  They didn’t think anything of this until a few days later when the present Hector wouldn’t let a person out of the car until a family member came out to greet them.  They still didn’t think anything of this until they found out that this wasn’t the Hector that had been around last time they were at the farm.  Hectors recognize family.

This grim couple are my a few greats-relatives.  And their little white fluffy dog.
This grim couple are my a few greats-relatives. And their little white fluffy dog.

When I hear stories of my mother’s childhood, I kind of imagine a cross between Indiana Jones, the early years, and Dr. Dolittle.

<— A Family History of Pets I ||| A Family History of Pets III —>

A Family History of Pets

 I don't think I've said it before - but seriously, get these details from your grandparents while they're still around - you'll regret it later if you don't.  labeled 'may, winter, 19', I have so many questions.  dogsled?  frankly, it looks like they're off to Narnia.
I don’t think I’ve said it before – but seriously, get these details from your grandparents while they’re still around – you’ll regret it later if you don’t. labeled ‘may, winter, 19’, I have so many questions. dogsled? frankly, it looks like they’re off to Narnia.

When my aunt was born, my dad’s parents had to get rid of their dog, Spot.  In my dad’s own words, the dog’s name was Spot, because… well… he had spots.  I suspect my grandfather was involved in the naming.  He was original like that.  My dad grew up in a small town that is nearly as small now as it was back then, and the dentist has a farm just on the outskirts, and lots of horses.  My aunt is so allergic to animals that, when visiting her parents’ home as an adult, if the wind blew in from that direction, she would have to stay inside with the windows shut, or risk her throat closing up.  One time, a plane was emergency landed for her, because the company ignored her when she said that there could absolutely be no animals in the cabin, and allowed someone to bring on their tiny dog in a carry on.

My dad was three the last time he’d had a pet.  He didn’t have another pet until he and my mum married.

Tomcat... before he got really into cat-fighting and shredded his ears.  First rule of cat fightclub... you run to grandpa when you get hurt... but you also don't talk about cat fightclub
Tomcat… before he got really into cat-fighting and shredded his ears. First rule of cat fightclub… you run to grandpa when you get hurt… but you also don’t talk about cat fightclub

My grandfather kept cats – stray farm cats who found their way to him, and who were willing to continue living their lives outdoors, visiting with my grandpa on the porch.  He couldn’t invite them in because my aunt would then no longer be able to visit.  Frankly, I’m not sure if most of them got more of a name than ‘cat’, or possibly ‘gray tabby’, ‘calico’, and ‘black cat’.  The one I remember best was, in yet another highly original choice by my grandfather, named Tom.  Short for Tomcat.  Another original.  I’m sure my uncle Tom appreciated the sharing of names.

The Clydesdales - or some of them anyways
The Clydesdales – or some of them anyways

My grandmother grew up on a farm, and was terrified of the Clydesdales her father used for farmwork, and equally terrified of the cows and their horns.    Those work horses are one of my dad’s few memories of his grandfather, and he agrees – to a small child, they were immense and immensely terrifying.  My grandmother grew up with chickens as well.  She doesn’t eat eggs, though she will use them in baking.  She grew up poor, and always said, “You don’t eat the chicken if it’s still laying eggs.  You eat a lot of eggs that way.”  When we took riding lessons near her house, she would stay as far from the horses as possible, despite their considerably more petite size.

One of the strangest old family headstones at the cemetery near where my dad grew up has a small photograph in it.  I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I’m only ever there for funerals, and frankly, that is not the time for photography.  The main thing you need to know is that everyone on that side of my family has a very distinctive look.  When in a room full of us, it’s very clear who is ‘us’ and who married into the family.  Pictures of my grandmother at 17 look like pictures of my aunts at 17, and probably would remind you a great deal of her mother, and grandmother at that age.  The men in the family are even more obviously the same.  So this photograph is of a man who looks like my dad.  Dead on, in fact.  It looks like my dad… if he were to grow out a full and magnificent handlebar mustache.  And, while I have never met this dearly departed distant relation, I think we’d understand each other just a little bit.  Set into his gravestone is a picture of him and his cockatoo.

a relative I suspect is on my grandmother's side of things... based on the basket of eggs. People don't dress nearly as dapper anymore while collecting eggs...how times have changed!
a relative I suspect is on my grandmother’s side of things… based on the basket of eggs. People don’t dress nearly as dapper anymore while collecting eggs…how times have changed!

my grandfather and the creatively named Spot
my grandfather and Bunkie

cat pictures - common even in 1945
cat pictures – common even in 1945

Stay tuned – next we look at my mom’s childhood!

Grab the Bull by the… No

I have a dehydrator.

I also have an asian food store near me.  They carry all sorts of the more unusual butcher shop selections.

Gwynn doesn’t get rawhide treats, because I’ve heard horror stories about how it can expand in their intestines or wrap them up or… well… things that end up with a dead or very sick dog.

This is going somewhere, I swear.

I give Gwynn bully sticks as treats instead.  Do you know what those are?  I’ll tell you what they are.  Bull wee-wee.  more commonly called “bull pizzle” *cue any men reading this blog crossing their legs.

Bull
you wanna do what? gosh, is that the time?  I have to… go… over there for… the grass?

Based on my scientific observation at the Calgary Stampede, bulls are veeeery well-endowed.  And disturbingly in control of the movement of said equipment.

Have you bought bully sticks lately?  It’s like $10 for an 8″ piece that’ll last Gwynn all of 10 minutes, including the three or four minutes he  runs around the house with it, cigar-like, crying and trying to find a place to hide it.  That’s a dollar a minute, right there.

A few months ago, I was in the asian food store, and, because I do often buy organ meat to dehydrate for dog treats, I was looking at the part of the butcher aisle that I like to call “things I won’t eat, but the dog might.”  So that’s what a bully stick looks like pre-drying and off the bull.  Huh.  They’re… long.  And difficult to cut.

I successfully dehydrated it, the dog enjoyed it, and I thought no more on the topic.

My mother, though.  She had found her mission.  Bully Sticks for the masses.  Or at the very least, the people at work who also had dogs.

Which is how she ended up trying to communicate Bull Penis across language barriers to a very embarassed and uncomprehending older chinese man working behind the butcher counter.  Surrounded by people who could understand her, but couldn’t, for the life of them, figure out why she would want such a thing.  She used gestures. 

She came home defeated, pizzle-less.

Fast forward to this week, and here is the conversation I had with my parents (M = mum, D = dad, L = me!)

M – I got bull pizzle at the grocery store today!

L – cool, I’ll cut it up tonight.

M – Lots!

L – did you buy out their whole stock?  What was their reaction to this?

M – the store clerk wouldn’t touch the packaging directly – she used a plastic bag to move them through, and typed the code in by hand.

D – I doubt most of the people who work there actually eat much of the weird stuff they sell.

L – I wonder what they must have thought, crazy white lady comes in and all she buys is a ton of bull pizzle.

M – I didn’t just buy that.  I also got blueberries.  On sale!

L – So they think we’re making Bull Pizzle and Blueberry Casserole to feed the masses?

D – nah, it’s too hard to cut up, Blueberry and Bull stirfry!

M – They wouldn’t think anything of it.  They sell it, it’s fine.

L – Yeah, but I bet they don’t often see a woman go through check out with 10 packages of bull penis and 10 packages of blueberries.

The lessons learned in this?  We need to start attaching spy cameras to my mother whenever she goes to the asian food store.  I want to see peoples’ expressions.  Also, my family is very weird.

Can anyone tell me what people do with bull pizzle if they’re not feeding it to their dogs?

Creeping In

I’m doing my best to get back into writing – apparently the holidays were so exhausting that I have no imagination left.  Or I just lost all ability to plan my time out.  One week free of it, and I find myself overwelmed with how much time I spend walking the dog and entertaining him.  Not that I’m complaining – we’re getting some pretty walk-friendly weather lately, and less than a month after the solstice, I’m getting so much more daylight.

This week’s word for Trifecta’s writing challenge is:

INTENTION
(noun)

1: a determination to act in a certain way : resolve
2: import, significance
3a : what one intends to do or bring about
b : the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered

Check out the other submissions HERE, or submit your own.

It was never my intention to stay so long.  I took advantage, I’ll readily admit.  It isn’t my proudest moment.

They were an easy mark.  How could I resist an open door?

I just can’t bear to leave, quite yet.  Maybe a day or two more.  Not that I’m getting attached, or anything.  I could see myself getting used to it, though, y’know?  I’ll stick around and enjoy a bit more free food.  Not much of a hardship – company’s not too bad – they give me my space, and they’re real good listeners.

I need my freedom – I need to stretch my legs, feel the grass under my feet, breathe deep of the great outdoors.  I’ve got instincts, primal instincts, and they can’t be ignored.  I don’t want to get rusty.  I’ve gotta hit the road.

It is a pretty scary place out there, though.  My pal Fred got scooped up by the nastiest bugger you’ve ever seen.  Guy swooped down out of nowhere, and now Fred’s nowhere to be seen.  It’s kind of nice to be big man on campus, just for a few more days.

The Missus relies on me to taste-test her cooking.

Plus, they’ve got some wildlife in this place.  They buzz around bothering the people here.  Tough suckers, too – seems like no matter how many times I land a killing blow, they’re up and jingling about.  Can’t leave quite yet – Ieast I could do to repay them is to get rid of this infestation they’ve got.

The old guy and I haven’t gotten much chance in the past few hours to hang out, either.  I’ve got this wicked kink in my neck, and he needs help reading the newspaper.  Now that’s what I call an equitable exchange of services.

I’ll be leaving soon – best get in some warm-laundry napping while I’m still around to spread the fur.  Creeping into their lives was exhausting.

cat bum

Sisterly Bonding

Sisters..  Getting through the tough stuff.  Sharing.  Sharing everything.

For better or for worse, through sickness and in health – much more than marriage, sisterhood is forever.

Sharing is caring.  And sometimes it isn’t.  As the eldest, I never got to keep all of what I had.  Why, if I found more of the chocolate eggs in the hunt, did I not get to keep them?  Sharing.  As the youngest, my sister never got new clothes.  She got clothes that were new to her. 

This time she was the one to share new things.

Nothing is really clear at 1 am, crossing paths once again, one destined for a brief attempt at achy-jointed sleep, the other destined to take her place in worship at the porcelain god.  Timing is key, that much is clear.

My youngest sister and I know each other well.  I’ve known her for her entire life, in fact.  When we accidentally say something at the same time, it sounds like the creepy girl-child twins from any one of a number of horror movies.  We verbalize the same thought simultaneously, often.  Thankfully that synchronicity doesn’t extend this far – we were, in fact, well-matched in an alternating schedule.  Lucky, considering there are three sisters in this hotel room, and only one idol at which to pay our respects.

Having grown up together probably helped us master this dreadful merry-go-round.  A small blessing in a night of unanswered prayers for a stop.

There’s some comfort to be found, knowing that someone is sympathizing as a prod from the stomach region army-rolls one from one’s bed to one’s knees.  And when, 20 minutes later, your action is mirrored, the sympathy is returned.  Someone to share in that feeling of having done 1000 sit-ups.

Sisterhood isn’t always about getting along – for instance, at 3 am, a not-so-sound sleeper, the only one to escape the plague, might object strongly to the lights being turned on, no matter how many groans of pain and misery she’d turned a deaf ear on.  She wasn’t sympathetic to the demand that she find something, anything, to MAKE. IT. STOP.  It?  All of it.  Whatever it takes.

Sometime around 6, truth be told, two hazy, hollowed-out individuals might have felt some sense of satisfaction as a certain grumpy camper paid homage herself.  It isn’t always about kindness, either.

At the end of the night, less sharing would have been nice.  Timing is everything.  And when your mother’s insistent knock at the locked door makes you mis-time your stagger towards the door, making the door an impossible distance away, your sisters have your back.  And when, in response to your piteous wail, your mother asks, “What do you mean, you stepped in your bucket ?”, your sister will be there to answer the door and say, “Give me a minute, she’s having a bad day!”

Orange

My Grandfather was a giant.  He towers over me in all my memories of him, a happy and comforting presence, always ready for grandkids to join him on his rocking chair.

My Grandpa made a wagon to hook up behind the ride-on lawnmower, so he could tow us grandchildren around town.  The prime spot was, of course, on his lap up front, but with the trailer, he didn’t have to make as many runs.

He loved to build things – the entire garage was devoted to woodworking.  He built cabinets and bins, boxes, step-stools, tables, and the Hobbit House.  Well… Hobby House is what I believe it was actually called.  A tiny house with two benches facing each other inside, and handy bench-backs for us grandkids to use to hoist ourselves up on the roof (clearly the prime seating area).  Apart from that one time my cousin pulled the chimney off while trying to hoist himself up – landing square on his back on the ground with a brick of wood on his chest – and a few splinters, it was a relatively safe pastime.

I think she was looking for something more like this

He built a number of cabinets, bins, step-stools and tables over the years, most of which have been scattered amongst the children and grandchildren.  He wasn’t very interested in the planning stages – he tended to eyeball once, cut twice – but everything is sturdy and built with love.  When my mom asked him to make a butcher’s block for them – they had brought him a large piece of oak and the metal cow’s head-and-tail shapes for either end – he very carefully pared the oak down nearly half its size, forming a cow-body and legs to go between the metal pieces.

His was snowyer… and porcelain… and a failed google search of “porcelain snow leopard” has proven that it might just have been one-of-a-kind. Makes sense – my Grandpa was certainly one of a kind.

My Grandpa’s favourite colour was orange.  Orange like rust, or a pumpkin, or a construction cone – the really stand-out kinds of orange.  The Hobbit House was pumpkin orange until years after he passed.  I guess my Grandma had come to terms with all the garishly orange things in her house by that time.  That and the life-sized porcelain leopard he set proudly next to his chair in the living room.  I suppose it was less irritating to her than the way he would pop his dentures out over his lips to entertain the grandkids.  At the dinner table.

He cared for all the feral cats in the area, though we couldn’t have them inside because my Aunt L is so allergic she swells up when the wind blows from the direction of the horse farm across town.  His constant companion among them, though, was a tough old orange tomcat, whose highly original name was “Tom”.  When Tom got cut up from a fight, my grandpa would tend his wounds. His ears were like swiss cheese, and at one point, he lost an eye, but he never failed to show up and sit with my Grandpa on the porch in the evening.

my water bottle

My grandpa gave me a love of do-it-yourself projects, rock collecting, rocking chairs, dark licorice, and the colour orange.  He also gave me one of the many step-stools he made, and his billy boots fit me great – so he might not have been an actual giant

Is it really any surprise that my dog is orange too?

.

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My future house could just share some traits with this one…

A Big Happy *sob* Birthday!

It’s the big one.  I’m officially old.  Practically ancient and decrepit, I’m only a few short years from being set adrift on my own personal ice floe.  One foot in the grave.  I’m pretty sure I found a gray hair this morning.  I’ll probably go bald, too.  That happens to women, sometimes, you know.  I’m definitely a spinster at this point, and I’m pretty sure I’m going senile.

What?  My birthday?  No, don’t be silly, that’s not for months.  My birthday hearkens the return of flowers.  Also, no, I’m not being over-dramatic here.  You are.  No, you are.  I know you are, but what am I?

Cue the Sad Violin.


It’s my baby sister’s 19th Birthday.  Nineteen.    She’s able to vote.  Well, ok, she could do that last year, But Still!  She’s living on her own in the far-away Ottawaland, having to scavenge for her own food and beverage in the not-quite-arctic-tundra of University Residentia.  She’s stopped thinking that boys are icky, probably.  She attends classes at an institute of higher learning.  She is officially able to purchase alcohol anywhere in Canada.  She’s an adult. 

She looks an awful lot like me. Only taller, more fit, and... well... like a taller, fitter me.

She was born when I was in Senior Kindergarten.  I was a great big sister right from the start.  When my teacher asked me what my new baby sister’s name was, I, already deeply attached to the girl, answered, “Dooor… something… something like door.  But… not.  I don’t know.  Can I play in the lego area?”

I taught her valuable lessons along the way.  Affectionate older-sisterly lessons like,

“Don’t lie down in the middle of the road while I’m riding my bike towards you, because you will be run over.  See, I wasn’t bluffing.”

And … well… off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything else that fits here.  Still.  I was a part of her education.

In return, she taught me valuable lessons like,

“If your demon-spawn baby sister comes up to you, looking completely innocent and cute, and wants to give you a hug, it’s actually in order to bite you on the face.

And

“If you chop off your bangs, and all the hair along the part in the top of your hair, right down to a buzz-cuttwice … our hairdresser will actually get out the electric razor and start prepping your hair for being an all-over buzz-cut.  And it really seems like he isn’t bluffing.”  That was definitely not the best look for her, even if she avoided getting the full buzz-cut.

I remember reading the Harry Potter books to her… Aloud.  With voices.  We learned together that Hermione wasn’t pronounced how it was spelled.

She actually enjoys going on walks with me.  I don’t even have to bribe her, most of the time.

Even when it's cold out... And even after we realised that the thing Gwynn is so interested in there is a deer-leg. Yech.

When she was really little (in real life, not just in my mind), her teacher asked them to draw someone they cared for.  While all the other kids drew spider-blob-people or block-blob-people representative of their parents, she drew a surprisingly detailed and identifyable picture of her babysitter.  Having finished the front (curly hair and all) before the aloted time was up, she turned the page over, and did the woman’s back, too (typical hands-in-back-pockets-of-her-jeans stance and all).

She makes art.  Artistic art, and always has.  At the age when I was drawing super-creepy-spider-people with no neck and spindly arms and legs protruding at unnatural angles from their bloated torsos, she was drawing relatively proportional not-scary people whose eyes were in the right part of their heads, and the same size as each other.  She’s in art school now, and the piece she gave me for my last birthday will be the basis for all decoration in a room of my future-house.

A woman came to our front door trying to sell something, and my sister politely turned her down.  As the woman was walking away, she told the woman, “Be Safe.”  Like she was sending the woman out into the zombie-apocalypse-wasteland.

yup... it's a zombie-arm for Sadie. We are totally ready for that apocalypse.

She and her friends were once spat upon by a silver mime.

All in all, she’s pretty kickass.

I look at her, and I still see her at 5, 8, 10… maybe 15… sometimes.  But she isn’t – she’s a young woman, and all grown up.  Holy cow, I feel old.

So Happy Birthday, Doodle.  I’m proud of you, and very impressed at how awesome you grew up to be.  Have fun celebrating!

ps, I hope you didn’t get awoken at god-awful-in-the-morning again today!

Boundaries

Mama’s Losin’ It

Mama Kat has a writer’s workshop, and one of the questions from this week was just begging to be answered. “Tell us about something you punched”, she said, and that is definitely something I can do.

This isn’t my memory; it’s more my mom’s. But I’m sure you all have memories of things that your parents told you so often that you might as well have been there, it’s so ingrained into your psyche.

I was there, as a matter of fact, I was just young enough that the memory isn’t. So, just assume that anything I write here is half assumption, half recollection of ‘the story’, and a dash of timey wimey wibbly wobbly creative allowance.

When I was growing up, my mother was friends with a woman who had a son the same age as me. We spent a lot of time over at their house, or with them over at our house. It sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

I hated him. HATED. He was mean – he followed me around for hours, poking me in the back. That’s what he did every time we were together at that stage of our relationship. My mom and his just shrugged it off as ‘things kids do to each other’… possibly as a life-lesson to me, possibly because they really just wanted five minutes in which to have an adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around poop, sleep deprivation or children in general, so please just handle this yourself and stop tattling!

So I handled it. One day, as he was following me around, poke, poke, poke-ing, I had enough. I had reached my limit. Enough was enough.

I punched him in the face. Hard. My mom says he landed on his ass, big blue eyes wide with shock (oh yes, I did this in front of our parents) and then burst into tears. He ran, sobbing, to his mom, demanding that I get punished. She suggested that he think of this moment next time he was considering harassing me. Talk about life lessons!

I spent a good half of my childhood playing with Evan. We had sleepovers, adventures in the backyard, and epic lego-filled rainy days. He and I played with Barbies together, and with J.I.Joe, Batman and all the rest of the action figures.  I’m pretty sure he’s the one who tried to teach me to pee standing up (another ‘from parents’ story).  Our parents were worried that they’d have to explain to us why we had to stop sharing a bed at sleepovers, though at about that time cooties and school friends and growing up all came into play and we drifted apart, and went our separate ways in life.

I think we got along so well because we knew each others’ boundaries.