Monday, March 2, 2015

WYL #7 Ages 13 to 18

This is another topic in the Write Your Life program that ended up being a “this and then that” summary of my life. It was good practice trying to write it in an interesting manner, however I need lots more practice before I’ll be satisfied. I did leave out at least one key theme – sailing – as I am saving that for a story or two by itself.

I can’t believe I’m actually including these photos!


A kaleidoscope of memories colour my teen years. Many of them are unrelated to each other and are just random moments of no real consequence. Others have impacted me more deeply.

Like many people, every moment in my adolescent years was not sunshine and butterflies and these incidents influenced who I have grown to be. I have learned to stand up for myself, be forgiving, and have learned that I am not to blame, and have therefore learned how to reject guilt. I learned how lucky I was to have loving parents who supported my growth and provided a stable foundation. These traumatic events were woven through my days of being a normal teenager so I'll tell that story and leave the details of the rest to my memory.


We moved from the prairies to Ottawa, Ontario in 1976 - I was just about to turn 14 when I flew into Ottawa with my dad. I didn't know it then, but I had just spent my last summer enjoying the wonder of Alberta's open grasslands. While I was staying at my Aunt Rena's farm and with my Uncle Graham, Mom and Dad, my sister Kirsten, and our cat Foo Ling made the long drive east. My mother was 8 months pregnant with my brother Olaf, and the cat yowled for the 4 day trip. I was glad that I flew!

It was a dark and rainy night when we touched down - not the best time to see your new city. However, our home glowed with the care that Mom always showed, even my room was unpacked with a welcoming light burning, and the radio playing Elton John and Kiki Dee 'Don't go breaking my heart'.

We were only supposed to be in Ottawa for one year, so my parents rented a townhouse which ended up being in the worst areas of town. Next door another family had also recently moved in, the youngest daughter, Heather, was my age and out of necessity we hit it off. I don't know if you know what 14 year old girls are like, but I think Heather and I were typical foolish girls who got into more trouble than either of our parents knew (or will ever know!). Going into grade 9 was nerve wracking as I was awkward at that age, however, I was able to hang onto the coattails of Heather's outgoing personality.

Patty and Colleen were part of our crazy giggle of girls and we had all manner of fun. It wasn't unusual for us to take the bus to the local library on a Friday night. Or maybe we'd go swimming and then go home to watch 'the Love Boat'. We'd have sleep overs and go to school dances - who doesn't remember cuddling up with some boy - the crush of the week - to the last strains of 'Stairway to Heaven'?


Black 'tribal' pants were all the rage, as were clunky platform shoes - they were ridiculous - and I had both. I remember shopping with my mom for a dressy blouse to wear with the outfit - I picked a glossy black and silver striped top. Not only good for dances, Patty and I painted our faces with KISS patterns, tucked in our tribal pants, slipped into a glossy tops, and stuck tinfoil to our boots. ( I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day ~KISS)

I have a photo somewhere if me sitting on the floor of Patty's father's car dealership and grinning from ear to ear. Why? I had a lion cub in my lap. A LION CUB!!!!


I participated in the Canada Day celebrations for both years that we lived on Penny Drive. I sang in the choir (which is a hoot because I have a horrible voice), and we marched with provincial flags. Unfortunately it was in the years before VCRs technology so my prime time appearance wasn't recorded.

I spent two years at Sir John A. McDonald before we moved again, not very far, but past easy bus service. This move was hard… very hard… I was on my own, with nobody's coat tails to hang onto. The school in Kanata was full of cliques and it took me a while to find one that I fit in with (I was never one of the popular girls). June and Jennifer were goofy and fun and through them I met Steve, who was to become the first real love of my life.

I wasn't the best student, but managed to get through the last few years without too much trouble. English classes did trip me up one year though - it and math were not my best subjects. Toga parties, homework, skiing, sailing, and all the other things that teenagers do filled the rest of my time. It was a wonderful, carefree, time of life.

In grade 12 we got to choose two work experience locations. I had been considering going into air traffic control as my career, so for my first stint I chose the Ottawa Airport tower. I spent 3 days at the tower learning what it took to become an air traffic controller. I got to see how the radar worked and how much concentration it took to keep flights in order. I even got to give instructions to a plane taking off from Ottawa. I decided that it wasn't for me.

I chose my second experience in the hope of getting a summer job. I spent a full week at Stittsville Kennel and Saddlery which melded into an additional week over the march break - this time paid. It was an old style kennel with little cages and runs. In the mornings I'd let everyone outside and clean the cages while they were out. Next, I'd make a huge bucket of soaked kibble and divide it into paper dishes. The feed room was old, and had holes in the ceiling that rats tails would sometimes hang out from. I'd grit my teeth and not look up. As soon as the dishes were in place, I'd let the dogs back in, and then go outside to clean the runs. There was a mountain of poop on that property, but it usually didn't bug me too much.

I continued at the kennel for that summer and the next. By the end of my time there I knew I wanted to go to school and get a "real" job - probably precipitated by the last few weeks of work when we had a few dogs that would COAT their cages in excrement, and I'd be gagging while I washed it off. Pe eww

At the end of grade 13 I still didn't know what I wanted to "be", so I planned a gap year to figure things out. I was sitting in June's kitchen lamenting my indecision when her father passed through. Fate was on my side that day and I left my high school years with a job in IT/computing.


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