Friday, February 27, 2015

Dalmatian with a Chicken on its Head

We drove past a local hobby farm on our way to the city and noticed that they had sprouted one more horse. Horses are like that - it seems that they arrive from nowhere, filling the barn and paddocks until they are filled to capacity and beyond. At least it was like that for us when we had horses. First one, then two, and in a blink of an eye there were eleven! I miss having horses, or at least having two or three… although with the brutal cold this winter it would have been more of a challenge. Certainly mountains of hay would have been eaten, which would have turned into mountains of you know what! But oh! Burying my face in a warm furry horse neck and breathing the sweet horse smell is heaven no matter what the weather.


The bright white smudge of the moon hung high in the blue sky this afternoon.  The sun radiated warmth in through the car windows as we drove about the city. No longer hunched against the bitter cold, I felt a slight prickling of excitement for spring tickling the back of my neck as we strode about the parking lots.

We had something to take back to Ikea so we treated ourselves to a lunch out again. The special was Swedish Poutine. It was horrible… the crispy French fries were horribly smothered with tasty gravy and liberally sprinkled with curds and Swedish meatballs… horribly good - even Carm (Mr. I never eat poutine and never will) was wishing he'd ordered it!


While we were at Ikea I looked around the kids toy area to find something for Spike - I found a bag of stuffed toys marked down 1/2 price to $6.99 so instead of just one toy, he got 3 - lucky little puffy dog. I let him pick one for now and tucked the other two away for another day. He picked the white spotted dog with a chicken on it's head.  


Carm picked up the replacement med (from a new manufacturer) yesterday - in talking to the pharmacy assistant it turns out that her husband (on the same drug) was also experiencing the same thing!

Our visitors (Cato and Bailey) have settled in well. They have the cutest little bird voices. At night Cato incants "wanna go night night" over and over again until I cover her cage. Carm and I crack up.


“Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine...”

~Frances Hodgson Burnett

Thursday, February 26, 2015

WYL #6 Special Moments in my Childhood

Some of the memories in this story are as clear as a bell, while others are like ghosts moving through a fairy-tale landscape. Much like watching TV without an antenna, the program is just barely visible through the static. If  I fiddle with the dial enough a moment of clarity is achieved.


The seat-belt was strapped tightly across my hips, pinning me to the seat.  I sank back into the cushion behind me, closing my eyes in an effort to contain my excitement, but it was no use, I wanted to jump out of my seat and run up and down the aisle shouting, but the seat-belt kept me firmly in place.


"Christmas in Norway, Christmas in Norway!". The words rang like church bells in my head as I tried to make myself fall asleep. The blackness outside the oval window reminded me that morning and a fantastic adventure would soon be upon us - the most exciting in my 11 years.

We had to change planes in Heathrow, England and as we made our approach I looked out the window wondering if I could see the house we'd be living in for 6 months. The two excitements merged together for a moment and threatened to overwhelm me.

I don't remember landing in Oslo, perhaps by then the excitement had obliterated my mind, but I do recall sitting in cousin Harry's car and driving down snow covered roads to his house. It was 1973, during the oil embargo, and vehicle travel was strictly controlled. Harry had gotten a special permit allowing him to drive us down the all but abandoned roads. We arrived at his house outside Oslo totally exhausted from our trip. After a long nap, it was time for supper - thick sausages and all manner of pickles and cheeses settled into my tired tummy.

We spent a few nights at Harry's, sleeping in comfortable built-in bunk-beds with thick, warm duvets. In the morning Harry's wife would bring plates of sweets and steaming mugs hot chocolate to our room - I was pretty sure that Norway was synonymous with heaven.


One night Harry transported us by sled, pulled by his two pointer dogs, to the local community centre where we watched cartoons. Indelibly written in my memory is a fleeting moment in the sleigh: the sky was black except for the slight haze of wood smoke in the air and echoed with the crunch of the sled runners on the packed snow. To this very day, the smell of wood smoke on cold, crisp air transports me back to that moment.


My sister Kirsten and I had cousins our age at Harry's - Tom-Arthur, Espen and Nina-Kari spoke only a smattering of English, and we spoke zero Norwegian, but somehow we managed to communicate.

Eventually it was time to leave Harry's and travel further north to Otta. I don't recall who drove us, but my eyes were wide with the sights of Norway. Tall, snow covered spruce trees lined the road as the expedition took us further towards our fairy tale Christmas. Mountain waterfalls frozen immobile, and rocks shaped like trolls teased my childish imagination.

We arrived at Ragna's house just outside Otta while there was still a bit of light in the sky. They were wonderful hosts, fattening us up with all manner of Norwegian cookies. At supper there was reindeer meat, pork, potatoes. 

During the days leading up to Christmas, we visited countless cousins who each welcomed us with mountains of cookies and cakes. My eyes grew wide with each towering peak of treats. Another special visit was to Skjenna Farm, our paternal grandfather's ancestral home.


Christmas Eve finally arrived. Extra tables were brought out and the table set. A Christmas tree mysteriously arrived at the front door and we decorated it with pretty balls and strings of tinsel. Plates piled high with lutefisk, lefse, boiled potatoes, cheeses, reindeer meat, cold cuts, and more that I can't remember, were crammed onto the waiting tables.

We were still stuffing ourselves when there was a knock at the door. The children were sent to answer it, and there in front of our eyes was Yulenissen, Santa Claus, with a sleigh full of presents. Behind him shone a special Norwegian sled - one with metal runners under a chair called a Spark. It was for my sister Kirsten and I! We couldn't believe that we'd been so lucky.


First thing the next morning car loads of people, sleds and toboggans drove up the mountain. Everyone got on their sled and with a WHEEE started the descent. I was sitting on our new sleigh with my dad balanced on the runners behind me. Sparks flew as we hit small stones, and it seemed that we might reach the speed of light. When we skidded to a stop at the bottom of the mountain my heart was beating as hard as if I had run down.

There were more days of visiting in Otta, a few more days spent in Oslo with Harry and his family (Tom-Arthur gave me a ceramic thing that he made... and the mumps) and then we started driving towards Farnborough, England, our next destination.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kabira turns 9

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

~Roger A. Caras

Although she has some grey frosting her muzzle, Kabira is still in her prime. Perhaps she had the zoomies more often in past years, but she still has the occasional burst of speed down the snowy laneway. She’s a dog who likes to wear clothes, and is seldom seen without her fleece outfit – she’s always felt the cold, but might feel it more this year.

Kabira is the dog with a 1000 nicknames. Kabirdy (Grace made this one up), Kootie Kookaroo Kook, Kabby McTavish, Rooty toot toot beer (because of her colour), Kabarific, Stampy, Pookaroo… you get the picture - the list goes on but my feeble mind can’t seem to remember even the names I called her this morning.




Some days I spend as much (or even more) time finding the right quote as I do writing the actual post. Today though, there were a multitude of quotes to chose from which goes to show how much dogs bring to our lives. Certainly my three dogs enrich my life and give me comfort. They make me laugh. They remind me that to find true joy one must live in the moment.

No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish - consciously or unconsciously - that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown. ~Dean Koontz

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Apologies to Costco

I headed into Costco today to get my meds all straightened around. The head pharmacist was very helpful, and it seems that Costco is not in error.

The company that manufactures this drug has changed their labelling of the 1 mg dose to be the same as they once labelled the 3 mg tablet. This new labelling matches the way other manufacturers label a 3 mg tablet and is not at all in line with 1 mg labels (head scratch).

Other mfrs have used numbers that correspond with the number of milligrams - but this company has decided to buck the trend.  Carm’s theory is that they used a 3 mg pill press possibly because the 1 mg press was damaged – the must have thrown in a bunch of other ingredients too as the size is significantly different.  As a 'standards' person, this belies all logic. I would like to have been a fly on the wall of the meeting that made this decision! 

All this is well and good but leaves me back at square one - frustrated and feeling awful. We are going to try another manufacturer in case the formulation has also changed. Maybe there is something that does not agree with me in this new format.

Enough whining!!!

While at Costco I looked for a recipe book that I read about. It seemed unlikely that it would be found in their limited array of books but there it glowed from within the stacks. I nearly shoved a lady aside to get my hands on a copy. 'oh she glows' is packed with vegan and gluten free recipes. I've followed the blog on and off for a few years and have made a few of her recipes. Now I have a book packed with sensuous food photos to flip though - my kind of porn!

This week it is Grace's turn for visiting cousins. Yesterday African Grey Timnehs Cato and Bailey arrived for a 1+ week sleep over. If you recall, they are my friend Ruth's birds, and Cato was the first baby parrot that we bred; Bailey is her brother from another clutch. They are a hoot with their funny talkative voices.

The damage on the car was slightly more extensive than we thought, but the local body shop did a great job.  The car looks perfect again. They even washed it!


 “… My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life…”

~Pablo Neruda

Monday, February 23, 2015


Sunday night we met friends at Sol d' Acapulco down on the St. Lawrence, a good 45 minute drive. The visit had been on and off again due to the weather, but at the last minute we decided it was clear to go. It was great to reconnect with our friends but as we sat there I could see the snow starting to fall - my stress levels started rising, but I figured it was a local event... not so lucky.

The road was snow covered and slippery so we crawled along at not much faster than 60km. Suddenly, stepping out of the gloom was a big deer. Carm braked hard, but we had no chance of missing it and nipped it with the corner of the car. With hearts beating hard, we stepped outside the car to see if we could see the deer, and to check out the damage. The front faring was popped out under the headlight, but we couldn't see any cracks. We'll take it to the auto-shop as soon as it warms up a bit (-20C today).  There was no sign of the deer which had only experienced a light blow and it had apparently scampered off into the night.


No sooner were we clear of the impact sight when the snow started falling again, hard. White-out conditions obliterated the road. It seemed an eternity, but eventually the snow stopped and we had an uneventful drive the rest of the way. (note to self: never again)

That was some of our excitement for the night! The other excitement, one that made me more upset, took place over the last 1 1/2 weeks, cumulating in a disturbing discovery last night.

I haven't been feeling well for the last two weeks - dizzy and light-headed, nauseous, tired and a glass of beer or wine would make me feel terrible. I wondered what was wrong with me. After a week I started thinking about the new form of one of my meds that I started taking around the time this all stopped. There was a label on the bottle stating that it was the same drug even though it looked different. Ok. Was it a new generic drug that I was reacting to? The side-effects were suspiciously similar to the known effects of this particular med. I took the bottle to Costco to ask some questions. The pharmacist assured me that nothing had changed. I continued to feel sick, maybe even worse.

Last night I discovered that I had a few leftovers of the old pill so laid the old and new out on my hand to show Carm. How could it be the same formulation when the new pill was so much bigger? Looking at them side by side, I noticed that the smaller one had a RI 1 inscribed on it, while the bigger one was stamped with RI 3. WTF!!!! I went online to see how this drug is labelled and sure enough, the number represents the dose! I am supposed to take 1mg a night. Costco had given me a TRIPLE dose!!! To say I am upset is an understatement.

Unfortunately the 1/2 life of this med is 24 hours (compared to 20 min for Aspirin), so it will be days before it has reduced down to my old level... in the meantime I'll be taking a trip to Costco :-(

This is not the first time that they've screwed up. Like many meds, taking the wrong dosage can cause serious side-effects, and even permanent harm. Many of the psychiatric drugs must be incremented slowly (both up and down) as there are some fatal side-effects possible. I’m upset with them, but even more, I’m upset with myself for being so slow to figure it out.

The moral of this story: know your meds and double check.

She has a memory of trees and fields and nothing more.
~James Thurber, The White Deer

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Angel in the Rear View Mirror

Just trying to get some writing practice everyday! The route to where we pick up the dogs raw meat passes a homeless shelter. I am always inspired to write something after these trips.  This one could be a post script to my 7th story, “Whispered Encouragements”.


He walked out onto the road, his feet slipping on the greasy slush. He caught himself before he fell, but not before an explosion of frustration was expelled from his lungs. A few more careful steps and he was at the window of the car, tapping lightly to attract the attention of the occupants cocooned in its warmth. He pulled his lips back in an approximation of a smile, hoping to appeal to their pity.

The person inside scowled a warning, so Ron stepped back, letting the car race away, slush sputtering behind the tires. He remembered when he first got here at the homeless shelter and how easy it was to keep his spirits up, but now, with feet so cold he couldn't feel them, and raw chapped hands, it was harder to move his cold pinched face into a genuine smile.

A sudden rush of feelings followed him back to the sidewalk. Where was his mother now, why wasn't she whispering encouragements? Or maybe he couldn't hear her over the roar of continued misfortune. Thoughts of stepping onto the road in front of the next racing car consumed his brain. It would be so easy, and why not - no one would miss him and it would be a hell of a lot easier than what he had now. He took a few meaningful steps towards the road. The cars raced pass him, nobody even turning to see him. He felt invisible and insignificant.

Ron took a few steps back and started running, just as he lept from the curb the light changed and all the cars skidded to a stop. He was disappointed and relieved at the same time.

The window in the car closest to him rolled down and a hand reached out.
"Friend, come and take this." the man from inside the car intoned.
Ron stepped over and opened his hand. A twenty was dropped into his hand and Ron smiled at the man. 

"Hey, don't I know you? Aren't you Hazel's son." the man asked.

Ron cautiously answered, "Um, yes, I was, but she passed away a few years ago."

The man in the car turned away and started rummaging in his briefcase. "Oh, here it is. Take this and come and see me. I remember you visiting your mom at the long-term care facility almost everyday. You were well liked, and I think you would fit in with our staff. Promise me you'll come".

Ron looked down at the man, tears welling in his eyes and nodded his head.

The light changed and with a wave, car and driver disappeared in the distance. Ron looked at the card - "St. Vincent's Long Term Care" and embossed on the other side shone an angel.


Friday, February 20, 2015

The great affair is to move

I couldn't stand it anymore - I had to get out of the house for a while. It was too cold to snowshoe (-36 with the wind-chill), and the sun was shining strongly. A drive seemed in order, even though the roads were sure to be icy with blowing snow. I just had to get OUT!!!

We decided on a world tour with our first stop being Sumatra. Home Outfitters had a sale on Starbucks coffee, plus we picked up a few other odds and ends. Next was Costco – the great old US of A. While there we took a short jaunt down to South America to pick up some produce.

It was a wild ride down the 417 to get to our Canadian stop - Lee Valley Tools. In anticipation of spring creepy crawlies we picked up a tick remover... ewwwww… let’s not forget the good things about winter! I love Lee Valley but was disciplined today and kept to the shopping list.

Sweden was our next destination: a Swedish lunch at IKEA fortified us for the rest of our journey. We picked up a few small things, and I did have a new toy for Spike in my cart, but without a family card it was double the price – fling, it was gone. 

Our last flight was over the North Pole to China and Asia. I love shopping at T&T as there is so much to look at. Unfortunately the trip is often marred by a ridiculously slow check-out process. I swear the cashiers seem to move backwards. We stocked up on noodles and soup mix so won't have to go again for a while, although they do have the best Thai basil and bean sprouts.

Even though the temp on the thermometer was in the low teens, the car was toasty warm with strong rays of sun beaming into the windows - a frozen solid bottle of water even started to thaw. It is difficult to believe, but we could be less than a month away from above freezing temps.


In the last week or two Spike has started growling, talking and barking while lying on a cushion on the little loveseat over by the window. We can't figure out what he is making a fuss about: he's not looking out the window; the other dogs are no where near him; there are no bones laying around; it is not supper time. It is very strange - I wonder if he is thinking about something very important; maybe he’s telling us he’s bored with this long winter and wants to go camping; or maybe he’s just seeing ghosts?


I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ~Robert Louis Stevenson,

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Say what I am unable to say

Tornados of snow whipped across the property this afternoon, partially filling our snowshoe trail. I had planned to go out for a tramp, but when I left the writing group at noon, even the short walk to the truck had my cheeks flaming red, and my nose cold. Minus 30 with the wind chill - no freaking way was I venturing out!

The warm-up at writing group today was "what small upgrade to your life made a big difference". I had some time to think and jumped upon and dismissed many ideas, until I thought of this blog. When I started writing 4 years ago I had to struggle to get even a few paragraphs written - I was never a natural writer and getting out a daily post was work. As the months wore on writing started to become easier (although I still work hard at it), but what is more, I started loving it. I wanted to write, no, I had to write. I loved being able to express myself. It was therapy for me.

Being bipolar comes with more than the obvious set of challenges, and the medications compound them. The challenge that I have struggled with the most is the decline in my cognitive abilities. I'm much better than I was 10 years ago, but I do still struggle at times. The most frustrating difficulty is being able to express myself in conversation. I lose words and my thoughts trail off and I get lost. Writing gives me the time to get back on track and I can take the time to remember the word I was looking for, or rearrange the sentence to better convey my thought. Being able to write is like a bird getting wings. It is freedom.

It hardly seems possible that Spike turned 7 today, it seems like it was just last month that he was a furry little bundle. But enough from me, Spike wants to have his say today.


20150219_150621-spikeHi, it's me, Spike, I told Laura that I wanted to write to you today. It is my 7th birthday, and I thought she might forget to tell you. I wish my birthday was in the summer so that we could be camping and have a big party for me, instead it is too cold to play outside for more than a few minutes. There won't be a party, but I'm going to get a big bone, and some chunks of meat. Laura said she took some special pieces out of the freezer. Laura always drinks champagne on her birthday, so I thought I might like some myself, but she said no, it wasn't for dogs. Some birthday.

20150219_150659-spikeLaura told me that 7 years is like 49 people years - I don't believe her because that would make me almost as old as her! I sure don't feel THAT old. I can still run and run (I love running as fast as I can), and I could still fight that dog that goes by with the bike everyday. I think Laura might have done the math wrong (she does that sometimes).

Well, I better go check to make sure all my toys are there. I wonder if I should make room in my toy box for a new one?



A word after a word after a word is power. ~Margaret Atwood

The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What! You too?

Quiet descended on our house around noon. After so much congenial conversation the house seemed empty and abandoned, Bella, our poodle, was bereft with her petter gone. I had a nap.


Last night was great fun. While I was cooking supper (gnocchi w mushroom sauce), Vince face-timed his cousin Carmelo in New Orleans to ask a few questions about the wine we were having with supper. Carmelo is a chef and owns one (or more?) well known restaurants in the Big Easy but he was generous with his time. While I was cooking the mushroom sauce I got a private cooking lesson! Pats of butter were added (more! more!), and some was rolled into a ball, then rolled around in flour to make a roué. The sauce turned out great ;-) And the wine was a treat.

Carm had a wonderful time getting to know his cousin and while it seemed at times that I was in the middle of two brain dumps, I enjoyed watching them get on together. There was no fear that there'd be nothing to say... both men are intelligent and remember absolutely every detail about everything - I wish I had 1/2 as good a memory. Vince is a pipeline inspector and has a broad knowledge about erosion, animal species preservation, plant life, to name just a few of his specialties. We hope that he visits again :-)

Yesterday we had talked about a short snow shoe this morning, as it turned out we were all a bit bleary eyed from the late night (I know I was), but we had the ready excuse that it was -28C with the wind-chill.


Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ." ~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I walked abroad in a snowy day

Monday's snow sparkled just like the house we were madly cleaning. Every inch of the place was scrubbed and buffed. All the dog stuff was washed and re-washed. We were ready.

Carm's cousin Vince was coming from Toronto and since we didn't know him very well, we didn't know his feelings about dogs and parrots. We kept the dogs away long enough for Vince to get his boots off, and then I 'released the hounds'. They swarmed around him, hardly giving him a chance to move. It was clear right away that Vince was a dog person. Even Kabira was hanging around to say hello. I always think that is a sign of a good person ;-)


The cousins have been yaking and yaking, getting to know each other after several years of not much contact. I've been sitting back, sometimes laughing to myself, as it is clear there is a blood relation… He might actually out Carm Carm in some ways!!! I've force fed him vegan meals and to his credit there hasn't been one complaint ;-)  We did have a cheater breakfast at the village greasy spoon though. Tonight will be more vegan fare.


Bella has been like glue - Vince might actually have velcro pants that are sticking Bella to him. Vince has good petting hands, and all the dogs have been taking advantage of him.


This afternoon Vince, Bella and I went for an hour snowshoe through unbroken drifts. The going was really hard for the person in front - I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't a very good hostess and let Vince do most of the hard work. We had to stop several times to catch our breath and analyse animal tracks. There were numerous tracks that we couldn’t identify – were they fox tracks? Cats? One thing for certain – they didn’t have snowshoes, but seemed to keep from floundering in the deep snow anyway.

It was wonderful to be spending some time outside and seeing some of our land - it is has been a long, cold winter of hibernation. My spirit could have spent the rest of the day outside, but my legs were like rubber.

I walked abroad in a snowy day;
I asked the soft snow with me to play; ...
~William Blake

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Murmuring phrases of Love


Our Valentines celebration turned out like many of our attempts at romance.

We set our plates onto the table which had been decorated with gold and white. The silverware sparkled like the icicles on the tress outside and the gold chargers were radiant like the sun on the horizon. Crisp white linens looked like freshly fallen snow on the gold placemats. Elegant champagne glasses glowed with pink effervescence.


Murmuring phrases of love we took turns jumping up to give Grace tastes of our supper. Kabira was dragged away from Grace's drop zone. Bella and Kabira circled the table, their jagged jaws drooling at the scent of grilled meat.

Spike looked on from the comfort of his giraffe pillow.

We jumped up to take care of the laundry.


Back at the table we sipped our bubbles, smug in the surety of our love, while laughing at the interruptions – surely love is not just about the perfect moments, but more how it endures, no, grows, during the imperfect ones. As the last pillow of mashed potatoes left our plates Carm jumped up to clean-up and load the dishwasher. I loaded the wine database on my tablet (designed just a few days ago), to make our first entry - 4 stars.


The last bits of gristle and meat from our plates was fed to the politely sitting dogs that had morphed back from shadowy sharks and the plates were slipped into the dishwasher.

The romantic album make a few more feeble rotations on the turntable, before the needle raked across the surface hitting the crackly silence at the edge of the record. skshisss, skshisss, skshisss. Our romantic celebration was over and the TV was flipped on. It was time for some political satire…



Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. ~Robert A. Heinlein

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I wheeled with the stars

Happy Valentines Day! Carm and I like to say that everyday is valentines day for us so we have no grand plans of supper with the hordes of other celebrators of love. No rivers of chocolate will flow through the house. Velvety red roses will not carpet the bed.

Like most people though, the daily ebb of life distracts us from declaring our appreciation of each other. Carm bought me a bouquet of white chrysanthemums, with orange gerberas and roses, so we’ll have white and orange petals on the supper table and I’ll cook a special supper, open a bottle of bubbles and maybe we’ll read sonnets of love to each other in the candlelight, or we’ll just watch TV.


Last night we joined my family for a celebration of my dad’s #3rd birthday. Mom served up tuna rice casserole with jellied fruit salad – right out of the 70s, and a favourite comfort food for some of us. She also had lasagne and salads for those who weren’t as nostalgic ;-)  Then, chocolate cake. Mom’s delectable homemade cake. I might still be flying from the sugar rush!

I’ll end with a few sentences from a sonnet by Pablo Neruda, a poet that my Aunt Kristine introduced me to just a few days ago. Some people are gifted with an imagination that lets them use words to paint a picture. As much as I try, the words in my mind are not a swirling whirlwind of snow that settles to the earth in drifts of perfect simile and metaphor. (see!!!)

‘Horses’ was the first poem of his that I read – I was hooked:

The following is a snippet of one of his love sonnets. Sigh…

“And I, infinitesima­l being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.”
Pablo Neruda

valentine garland vintage image GraphicsFairy2

Thursday, February 12, 2015

WYL #5 Early School Years 6 to 12

The alarm was set this morning - writing group day! I was out of the house with the dogs while there was still a bit of pink on the sky. Everything was covered with the fluffy white snow that had fallen overnight so I got busy un-puffing the truck while the dogs went about their doggie business (no rabbits surprised). The brief taste of winter air was like a shot of espresso - I felt alert and alive.

This week's topic was ages 6 to 12 - my story is a 'this and then that' recounting of events recalled from all those years ago.



"To Laura, for her cheerfulness and kindness to others." was inscribed by Mrs. Bott on the first page of my grade 1 book. My mom says I born with a sunny disposition. Through many years, difficulties and even a diagnosis of bipolar disorder this cheerfulness has been part of me, smoothing the path.

Moving into the air force base in Rivers, Manitoba just before grade 1 gave me a freedom that six and seven year olds rarely get to experience nowadays. It had a rural feeling that I naturally enjoyed. My dim memories include a swimming pool not far way (where I learned to swim), a baseball diamond with dugouts the other direction (where I was flashed by a partially naked man), the long straight road to school (where a man tried to lure me into his car), and grassy fields everywhere I looked.

There were no homes behind ours, just crab-apple trees that my mom made jam from, and then a tall fence separating us from a jump tower and a distant slice of runway. Jets and other planes took off behind the house thrilling me with the sound. We took off on that runway too - my dad was behind the wheel of PJZ, our little red Piper Tripacer airplane. Taking to the air was a thrill... that is until I puked, which I often did. I think the smell of oil and gas triggered the honking that earned me the nickname goose.

I got a shiny blue bike for my 7th birthday that fired my imagination and put hooves on my feet. It was more than a hunk of metal with some rubber - it was my horse.

For the base parade my mom, Mrs. McLennon and I spent hours making pink tissue flowers to decorate my bike and clothes with. The pink powder puff vision won me 1st prize for bike decoration, my first time at winning something.

My friend Kathy and I could bike to the nearby village to visit the corner store. We would grasp onto our nickel tightly as we gaped at the racks of candy along one wall. I would carefully make my choices before handing the sweaty nickel to the shop keeper. The brown bag crinkled as I tightly rolled the top closed, after, of course, picking a favourite treat to pop into my mouth. Usually there were licorice babies, and often a jaw breaker or two included in my score of sugar. We'd get on our bikes and pedal our way back to the base, the dust rising into the hot summer air.

We moved to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba in time for grade 3. I could be out of the base and into the country in just a short gallop on my trusty bike. On a sunny summer day the dusty rural roads lured me away from civilization. The aromas of clover, vetch and freshly cut hay scented the air while I waded in Devil's creek trying to catch all manner of tadpoles, frogs and fish to bring home to my small aquarium.

I remember seeing two horse back riders just down the street from our house. This captured my fancy and I dreamt of the day when I could ride my own horse around the countryside.

We lived in two houses during our 2 year stay in Portage. Our second house was next door to the Scanlons and as it turned out, my first crush. Danny was a year older than me and I swooned at his tall, dark good looks - for years! He rarely returned my attention, but one time we planned our future together - we'd both be vets and live in the country (we were watching one of the Planet of the Apes at the time). His family moved to Winnipeg when I was in grade 6, but then our family moved away just before I entered grade 9. He got married when I was in my early 20s, ending my secret fantasy.

I used to set up the tent in the backyard and spent many summer nights staring at the stars, the smell of musty canvas filling my lungs.

I loved animals and wanted a dog till it hurt. I lured a stray home when I was 9 which we named Shep. He was a rough looking dog with a sharp needle like coat that stuck in the carpet and pricked our feet. He was blind in one eye and chased every car despite all training efforts. For a myriad of reasons my mom gave him away. After Shep left I was on the lookout for dogs I could walk. When the people moved into the house behind us with a St. Bernard I was ecstatic. Heidi was at least twice my weight, but was as gentle as a lamb. Somehow, I was able to convince the owners to let me take Heidi for walks.  She was very good, except for the time she saw my cat and chased her through the side of the tent - there were now two doors!

I was 10 when we moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba - grade 5. The school was 1/2 mile away and we walked no matter what the weather. In the winter we'd wrap scarves over our faces so that only our eyes peered out. My glasses would fog up so that I could barely see where I was going.

Our house in Winnipeg backed onto an undeveloped area that gave me and my iron pony plenty of room to roam. We'd race along the twisting path that skirted the creek, ducking branches and bouncing over gnarled roots. There was an old house nestled in the weeds of the vacant land behind our house with a mysterious,and to us kids, dangerous, occupant. I never took the dare to run up to the door. It was torn down to be replaced with a curling rink.

Behind the garage was a forgotten pile of old boards that I fashioned into a fort. Gravity, along with bits of rope and wire, held the grungy structure together. I'd sit in there getting covered in dirt and trying not to notice the spiders, thinking about the house in the country that I'd someday have, and the horses and dogs that would share it with me.

When I was in the middle of grade 6 we picked up roots again, this time for 6 months in Farnbourgh, England. But that's another story.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

a flutterment and a scufflement

The dogs almost had a bedtime snack last night. Peter Rabbit got cornered on the laneway by three dogs who fancy themselves hunters. Luckily for Peter, Carm was outside and quick to rescue the little cottontail.
Yesterdays warmer temps (-4C!) and bright sun drew me outside for the first time in days. My friend Christina and her farm helper Julia came by for a long walk. It was fantastic, although I barely had enough tissue - my nose was running faster than I could walk.

Today I set a pot of lentils, onion, lemon and broth on the stove to simmer while I readied the house for lunch guests. I made the mistake of telling Spike that Jo Ellen was coming and for the next hour and a half he cried and ran from the window to the door. Silly boy (and really, how can he remember that long?) - you would think, since I am supposedly the more intelligent of the two, that I would know well enough to keep my mouth shut by now!  In the end she finally arrived and after several minutes of jumping around crying with excitement things settled down. Oh, and Spike settled down too!

No fancy chocolates required here (well, maybe sometimes), a simple bag of shiny black Twizzlers will do the trick for rekindling everlasting love (not that it was unkindled).

Argh. I'm looking out the window and if it wasn't for the line of trees on the horizon the dreary grey snow would merge with the dreary grey sky and the dreariness would be complete. The sun has been eclipsed by a thick opaque grey lens that wipes out even the most persistent feeling of happiness.


Then all at once there was a flutterment and a scufflement and a loud "Squeak!"
The other squirrels scuttered away into the bushes.
When they came back very cautiously, peeping round the tree--there was Old Brown sitting on his door-step, quite still, with his eyes closed, as if nothing had happened.
But Nutkin was in his waistcoat pocket!
This looks like the end of the story; but it isn't.
~Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Wicked Winds Blow

When I woke up this morning the wind was howling and the snow was coming down sideways. Not very nice. I usually go out with the dogs, but today they were on their own. When I went to bring them back in they were cowered by the door and covered in snow. I wondered if it would be a good day to crawl back under the covers...

The last few days have been a panic of getting our house in shape for overnight company. The spare bedroom had been a bit of a dumping ground, as had what we call the dining room even though it hasn't had a table in it for 18 years! I cleared out stuff (i.e. shifted from one area to another), moved some furniture around, hung a shelf, hung some pictures in the hall that we hadn't gotten around to hanging since we painted... well, you get the idea. I look around our house and all I see is mess and clutter, but maybe it isn't as bad as I think.

Today was cooking day. Getting a few basics into the fridge and freezer will make meals just a bit easier to put together. Except and a big BUT - I have decided that I am a lousy cook. I almost burned the lentils, then had to add about 4 extra cups of water to get them to cook properly… I almost forgot that I had stuff in the oven several times, and often forgot to put the timer on. I forgot this and I forgot that… It took me literally HOURS to make just 3 things. Do you ever have those days when the brain is running a few steps slower than it should…

We haven't had sleep-over company for quite some time so maybe I'm just a bit wound up ;-) I'm looking forward to the visit.

624 Tiny Things to Write about: "Explain why you've given this famous restaurant only one star - even though you've never eaten there".

I stepped into the White Throne fully expecting an Asian experience, however the train station grunge atmosphere stopped me in my tracks. The shiny white toilets that stood in for chairs had me running for the door. The vile visualizations quashed any appetite I may have had and even my favourite noodle bowl at Pho Mai didn't bring it back.

That was fun! Believe it or not I've seen a restaurant like that on TV, and while I couldn't leave the diner, I did change the channel!

Snow as fine and grainy as sugar covered the windows in and sifted off to the floor and did not melt. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Friday, February 6, 2015

WYL #4 Puff

I tried something different for this writing group story. I thought that writing in 3rd person would let me show you the story, rather than just telling it. I wanted to give the feeling of looking on and seeing the action. I hope it works for you.

I did use a liberal amount of artistic license. The basic events of the story are true, but I embellished some of the background just a bit. I was trying to convey the feeling instead of it being a factual bullet point telling.

I wasn’t sure I’d get through the reading of this at yesterday’s writing group without bursting into tears. Writing it, and even doing the 2nd and 3rd edits had tears pressed to the backs of my eyes, but you’ll see for yourself the joy and trauma that causes such an emotional response in me. For the record, I got through the story without needing a tissue.


Wonderful Gift

The little girl skipped around the back yard singing "I'm four, I'm four". Her blue chequered dress twirled as Laura spun in a circle. Every now and then she could see her mom's head peeking through the window to make she was still in the yard. Laura was hoping her mom was making a birthday cake for her, something piled high with puffy white icing and not coconut like last year.

The leaves on the trees that lined the yard were starting to turn a bright yellow, a sure sign that September was well underway, but the grass was still green and soft, a welcoming carpet for Laura to flop down on. The grass tickled the back of her legs so she jumped up to run some more, pretending she was riding the horse at the zoo. A voice called to her from the front yard.

"Daddy!". She ran to the front of the house and skidded to a stop when she saw he had a small wicker tackle box in his hands. Her mom was standing beside him with a wide smile on her face. He crouched down and carefully set the basket on the grass.

"Happy birthday! Come and see."

Laura walked over and knelt on the grass beside the tackle box. It started to move a bit and then a small white paw darted out of the hole in the top of the basket. The little girl's eyes widened in excitement as she fumbled with the latch. When she flipped the lid open there was a small orange and white kitten blinking up at her. She looked to her mother and then her father, both smiling and nodding their heads at her.

"Go ahead, it's yours." her mother gently affirmed. Laura carefully lifted the kitten out and cuddled it in her arms.

"Well, what should we call her?" her dad asked with a chuckle.

"Puff. Puff is the perfect name for her." Laura said with a large grin, her eyes sparkling with delight.

Laura loved the fluffy little kitten that grew into a beautiful cat. As the years passed Puff was a loyal companion. Being dressed in dolls clothes was not her favourite pastime, and the bonnets were the worst, but Puff cooperated, at least until she could sneak away. Curled up in the crook of Laura's legs at night she would scare away monsters and protect her from demons. Puff was an avid hunter and would often bring her catches home to drop them at Laura's feet. Injured birds with no hope of survival gave Laura the first lessons on life and death and taught her that life is fragile.

Sometimes Laura would put a harness and leash on the cat so that Puff could track down wounded birds in the overgrowth close to their home. Laura would try to nurse the birds back to health, but rarely succeeded. She loved all animals and tried to fill her life with them, even if it meant sick birds, fish caught in the creek, or frogs from the local pond.

Eight years later it was over in a split-second. Running across the street to see Laura off to school Puff didn't see the speeding car until it was too late. She died instantly while Laura looked on from the sidewalk at the front of the house. She started running towards the road, towards Puff, who was lying lifeless on the pavement, but the neighbour ran over and grabbed her, sparing Laura the image of the blood and gore of the critically injured animal.

For the next few months, alone in her bedroom, Laura could sometimes hear and often felt Puff still curled up in the crook of her legs. She'd open her eyes, hoping that the accident had just been a nightmare, but when she saw it was not so she closed her eyes again, a damp tissue grasped in her hand.

It seemed that the tears would never stop but they did. However, for the rest of her life Laura couldn't listen to  Peter, Paul and Mary's 'Puff the Magic Dragon' without glistening eyes and a choking feeling in her chest.
The simple birthday present of the kitten was a wonderful gift of love and joy, and yes, sadness.



Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cats by their tails

I bought myself a long, black, twizzlie, twister treat the other day. This is the perfect time of year for a delectable liquorice indulgence as I like it to be tough and chewy. I remove it from the bag and lay it out on the table so that it can weather to the right consistency. In the dry winter air it takes only a day or two to reach perfect chewy ropeiness.

Oh! the sweet anise flavour! And my tongue so black, reeling with flavour.

I got a phone call at about 8:30 last night - it was Heather from the writing group asking me to facilitate the meeting today. Okay. GULP! What was I going to use as the warm-up exercise? I thumbed through a writing prompt book, scoured the internet, but in the end came up with the question on my own: if you could spend 1 hour with anyone on the earth, past or present, who would it be?

Bright sunshine greeted me this morning. There were a few butterflies in my stomach though as I thought about what was in store for me today. It shouldn't be a big deal, but I know myself well enough to know that I'll have to be careful to not be officious and too regulated by the clock. I like things organized and scheduled... which is not how this group works at all! Everyone needs to have their time to read their stories so it is important to keep the meeting on track.

The whole facilitator's thing turned out to be a bit like herding cats… talkative cats. Sometimes the discussions get animated (in a heartfelt way, not an argumentative way) and it is hard to interject to get things moving forward. I could have used a bell, like the ones our teachers used to use in school! In the end we finished a few minutes early, but only because two people didn’t have anything written.

The warm-up was a bit of a bust too - everyone had more than one person they wanted to visit and lots of embellishments, so sometimes the discussion went on a long time :-0

Don’t get me wrong though! I love this writing group and appreciate what every single person brings to the table. And think – just wait until it is your turn to facilitate!


It is hard to meet a stranger. Even the greatest extrovert meeting even the meekest stranger knows a certain dread, though he may not know he knows it. Will he make a fool of me, wreck my image of myself, invade me, destroy me, change me? Yes, that he will. There's the terrible thing: the strangeness of the stranger. ~Ursula K. Le Guin

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Winter’s icy grip

An icy cold blizzard had us in its clutches Monday; yesterday the sun shone for a little while and did warm up to -10C. Today it is grey and snowing, but a balmy -6C. The dogs are tired of this weather, rushing out, not dilly dallying, when it is time to do their business.


I ordered Bluetooth headphones from Costco last Tuesday - three days later, on Friday afternoon, they arrived. FedEx called from the road (our gate was closed) so I rushed out to get them. I ran back into the house the box clutched in my bare hands, ripping open the packaging as I went. My hands were still numb with cold when I unravelled the power cord and got it plugged in. Three hours was a long time to wait for them to charge.... Finally the indicator lights showed they were ready so I fired up my tablet, paired the devices, and got some music playing. Wow - great sound and so comfortable to wear :-) 

I have been trying them out on the treadmill while watching old episodes of Modern Family (that's the only TV that I have on our media server). I've also experimented with where to put my tablet for listening to music as I move about the house - I've found a spot that gives 100% coverage! I love not being  tethered to my tablet or mp3 player. Wireless baby - that's the ticket!

Sunday Carm was either asleep on the sofa or tucked in bed with some sort of flu or virus. I can't think of when he last spent the day malingering. Poor boy. That left me alone to work on my story for this weeks writing group meeting, and some movies. No Superbowl for us!

I went to see Hermey, the dentist, in the village yesterday - I was so glad not to have to venture out very far as the roads were still snow covered and icy. Hurray for local dentists.

When I got home from Hermey, Carm was chomping at the bit to go into the city to pick up the clipper blades and do some shopping at T&T. The main roads had seen the plow and had time to dry off a bit so the driving wasn't too bad.

T&T had the usual assortment of treasures (although we are starting to freak out just a little bit about eating stuff from China - I don't feed the dogs anything from there... I'm under the delusion that since T&T is owned by Loblaws there is some hope of safe food... We try to stick to products without too many ingredients, rice noodles come to mind. Although there is that jar of Tom Yum soup flavouring... fingers crossed!


Every winter,
When the great sun has turned his face away,
The earth goes down into the vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay—
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses...
~Charles Kingsley, Junior