Saturday, February 27, 2016

wuthering round

The boxy bulk of RVs wound their way around the building. Keep right I said, in an effort to keep us from becoming lost in the off-gassing fiberglass and fabric. Some RVs marched in straight lines, while others circled around like chuckwagons pulled up for the night. Mighty hunks of fiberglass and aluminum lured us up their rickety steps to gasp at the interiors. Yes, it was the annual RV show, and we were there on Friday to waste some time, not to shop. It's a good thing we weren't shopping, as I didn't see anything I even remotely liked. Our villetta will serve us well for another year.

One change I did like is that many of the RVs have done away with carpet, and now have wood grain lino throughout, except for the bedroom. Carpet in the living space was always a problem when we camped at sandy or dirty sites. The manufacturers have finally realized that the campers are for CAMPING! Kitchens remained small, except for the larger campers that had room for islands - they had plenty of work space. Dark interiors still prevailed. I saw one class C that had a beautiful light wood for their cabinets (much like the coffee table in my parent's family room).

Thursday night we had Dave, Carm's old work friend, over for supper again. It is hard to see friends go through difficult times so we try to help out where we can. Dave is still grieving the loss of his wife a few years ago. Hold your loved ones close everybody - it can be pretty rough if you lose them...

Remember the other day when I said I had the very beginnings of hypomania? Well, a hot bath with some herbal tea, quiet music, extra meds, and close attention to my thoughts put me on the right road again, although I still find I have to be vigilant. Every day I learn more about what I have to do to keep myself well - the tiniest change bears attention.

I've given the dogs big hunks of bone the last few nights. They get locked in their crates to keep the bloody things contained. Spike pokes it a few times then sits looking at the crate door talking and whining and carrying on as if he were in dire straits, punctuated by long mournful silences. Eventually I gave in and let him out, scooping up the bone and putting it away. Then he walked around from Bella's crate to Kabira's talking and whimpering. What a pain in the @$$ he is! I know that if I were to let him have the bone outside his crate he would probably take it up onto the loveseat... or worst of all, hide it behind the bed pillows in the spare bedroom. He actually did that once with a pig's ear and it is only because he was suspicious that someone would find it and kept looking to make sure it is safe, that I found it.

The wind is blowing a gale today, wuthering round the house and through the trees, whipping their limbs into a frenzy of activity. I can see snow gales dancing across the fields in white pirouettes, surely collapsing on the roads in treacherous drifts.

"Listen to th' wind wutherin' round the house," she said. "You could bare stand up on the moor if you was out on it tonight."
Mary did not know what "wutherin'" meant until she listened, and then she understood. It must mean that hollow shuddering sort of roar which rushed round and round the house, as if the giant no one could see were buffeting it and beating at the walls and windows to try to break in. But one knew he could not get in, and somehow it made one feel very safe and warm inside a room with a red coal fire.”
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Kabira's icy birthday

The worst of the ice storm seemed to centre on us for much of the late afternoon and evening, the temperature finally easing up above zero near midnight. Rain came down and washed the icicles out… By the time I got up this morning the trees were almost free of their icy armour and clunks of ice were melting off the house and trailer. We had no power outage - the un-needed buckets of water distributed around the house were dumped at noon with a sigh of relief.

Being on a well, we need electricity to run our water pump, unlike city dwellers who usually still have water when the power goes out. It’s only when you’ve been without water do you realize how useful it is! Just a simple thing like flushing the toilet is a luxury when you only have one spare bucket.

It started yesterday, a frizzing of my nerves as if they were being sparked by electricity. Images from violent movies and shows ran through my head causing my nerves to jangle even more. They were sparking on a razor's edge. I couldn't get to sleep. When I eventually did, I woke up a few hours later and laid there for hours, till it finally dawned on me that I needed some chemical help. That tiny brown pill helped me to go to sleep, but now, 12 hours later, I'm back in the same boat, skirting the edges of hypomania; not the good kind where I zoom around getting all sorts of things done, it’s the bad kind where I’m irritable and angry and can’t settle down, but don’t get anything productive done.

Why? Could it be the several nights of restless sleep I've had due to this darn cough? Or too many things on the go? Or not enough on the go?

What to do? I can't settle down for a nap. I tried reading. I picked up Jon Katz 'Dancing Dogs', thinking that a book of dogish short stories would be calming and fun - the first story was about a woman going through the death of her dog. Oh good. That did NOT help! I think I'll try E.B. White's 'Charlotte's Web', although I don't think it has a happy ending… maybe a herbal tea will soothe my frazzled nerves. (if only it were that easy)

I almost forgot that it was today, but here it is, Kabira's 10th birthday!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

wind lashing icy rain

Freezing rain is battering the east windows, the blustering wind driving it hard against the glass. It is not a day to be on the roads unless you absolutely have to, and luckily we don't need to go anywhere. I have a hot tea on the table beside me, and a book lays beside it.

We got up early this morning to make our first batch of campground reservations. Hurray - our camps for Sept and Oct are solidified. Yet to come is a try at Presquile. I've never been considered spontaneous and retirement hasn't changed me in any notable way, so I'm happy to have plans made at this time of year.

Gosh, the wind has picked up and the rain is now bucketing down in torrents.

For the last few months we have been doing the dogs nails with the dremel rather than clippers. Unfortunately, I don't keep at them on a regular basis, so it is a constant struggle to keep them from clacking. The dogs hate it. Here's what I wrote about it in my writing practice:

" Three pairs of glowing eyes gleamed in the dim light under the desk. The items on top of the desk shook with the vibrations from the huddling dogs beneath it. I reached my hand in and brought out the first victim. Spike backed up frantically, trying to get out of his collar so he could make an escape. I scooped him up in my arms and carried him to the altar. The soft mattress and smooth sheets of the futon cradled his trembling body as I tipped him onto his side.

Carm joined the attack and gripped Spike's limbs in his hands. The dremel flicked on and the sound of buzzing filled the air, drowning out any verbal protests by the small dog. Foot by foot, nail by nail, slowly his nails were trimmed back until they would no longer make the dreaded click, clack on the wood floors.

Finished! And the little dog jumps off and runs away ecstatic at having made it out alive.

Bella is nearby, maybe she figures getting it over with is better than the awful anticipation. Or maybe it was an accident, one she'll be sure to guard against in the future. I grab her collar and walk her over. She jumps onto the futon and I lay her on her side. Carm sits down beside her and grips her legs. I get to work, shortening and sculpting each nail, hoping to get them short enough that they don't hit the floor. Jerk, her foot nearly pulls out of my hand. A small drop of blood on her nail tells me why. She struggles to get away, but Carm is too strong. Foot by foot, nail by nail, slowly her nails are ground back. The simple word "ok" has her jumping off the futon and dancing for joy.

Kabira. Hum. I wonder where she is? A quick glance around doesn't yield a result so I start looking more carefully. She's still under the desk, shaking like a leaf and looking out at me, hoping I can't see her. Gently, I take her collar and ease her out and over to the gallows. With a little encouragement she jumps up and of her own volition lies on her side, her legs sticking out. She cries a bit and I feel like a cruel overlord, but get to work anyway. Carm has her pinned so her flailing legs don't knock me in the face. Foot by foot, nail by nail, slowly her nails are trimmed back in the vain hope that she won't clack. It's no use, I let them get too long months ago and the progress to get them short again is painfully slow.

With glee she jumps off the futon and dances over to the fridge where a special treat awaits all three. "

Sunday, February 21, 2016

being admired

Hi, it's Spike here. Laura is having a nap so I thought I'd tell you about my day with the girls (Laura says I should say women) with the video cameras. They first came on Monday so that I could say hello to them. They admired me and said how good looking I am and even petted Bella and Kabira. Then they wanted to hear Laura talk and put a video camera and lights shining on her, which I thought was dumb, especially since Bella, Kabira and I had to be quiet in the bedroom. Carm said our noise was interrupting the video. After they were finished listening to Laura, they said good bye to us and told us that they'd be back on Friday so they could take video pictures of me.

I remembered it was Friday when Laura got out the brush and puffed me up a bit. I don't really like the brush, but it usually means someone is coming to see me so I get a little excited. Laura got the mirror and showed me how nice I looked. I didn't really need to see in the mirror because I know I always look cute. Otherwise why would Laura kiss me all the time?

The women came with the video camera and started getting us ready. First they took pictures of Grace. Why would they want to see Grace? But then they took some pictures of us three dogs, until finally they were tired of seeing Bella and Kabira and just wanted to see me. I did all the things they wanted me to do just like a dog in the movies. I brought Laura her socks and even a tissue. I spun in circles and did other tricks. Sometimes there was equipment in the way that scared me a bit, but I tried really hard to do the things they wanted me to do. We even went outside so that they could take pictures of me walking on the snow. I must have looked good because they did that for a long time.

When we got back inside they took a few video pictures of me with Bella and Kabira. The women must have been happy with all the pictures they took because they left soon after that and were smiling and laughing. I do that to people.

Laura woke up from her nap and said I had to give the computer back to her.

Yours affectionately, Spike

Saturday, February 20, 2016

strumming our song

Our busy day continued on into the night. At 7pm we went to the neighbors house for a going away party for Glen and Kathy, neighbors directly across the creek from us. We were the first to arrive, our footsteps well-defined on the newly fallen snow powdering the front steps. Safely inside, our boots took head-of-the-line place on the long mat put down for visiting footwear.

Over the next half hour, the rest of the guests arrived at Barry and Barb's welcoming home. Everyone gathered in the kitchen in a tight crush of laughter and conversation. What is it with the kitchen that draws us all in? Partway into the night there was a rush into the dining room as the table was laden with snacks. We brought meatballs in a garlic sauce, others brought cheese balls, spinach dip, tortilla rolls, eggrolls, and the list goes on. No one was going home hungry.

A guitar was brought out and Glen started to strum. People drifted into the living room, gathering around an imagined fire, adding their voices to the songs. Even Carm, who never sings no matter what, sung a few words. What I thought was so lovely, so magical, was how no one seemed to care if you sung out of tune or messed up the words. There was no judgement, there was only the joy of being together, bittersweet knowing that Glen and Kathy would be leaving.

We tore ourselves away at midnight, knowing that the festivities would go farther into the night. It has been a quiet day here today, even the dogs are tired from keeping watch so late.

Trailer for sale or rent, rooms to let, fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets, I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but, two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means, king of the road.

~Roger Miller

Friday, February 19, 2016

lights, camera, action

The camera crew arrived this morning around 11. Spike had been puffed-up, I'd had a few coffees, Carm was clean shaven, and my hair was done. We were ready to be directed in the 'b-roll' video. Starting with Grace, we moved through the house recording various actions and creatures. Spike got my socks. He got a tissue too but the camera equipment was in his way so he had to be helped a bit. Carm and I cut brussels sprouts together. I worked on my blog with Spike at my side. We went outside for some shots with Spike. All the dogs got out for their time on film. In the end they got 45 minutes of footage that needs to break down to 3 minutes! That's a lot of editing!

I'm glad it's over…

Yesterday I got up when the alarm jangged and dragged myself to the writing group. I had a story about building the birdroom to read, and of course I love listening to every one else's stories. We were a small group though and didn't even make it till noon.

When I got back home I was lured by the bevy of dogs on the futon to lie down for a nap - a night of tossing and turning followed by the early morning meant that I couldn't resist. I was snoring away loudly when the phone rang - it was Trudie inviting us over for supper… I thought that staying home for an early night would be the smart thing to do, but I couldn't resist the idea of her pasta sauce. I agreed with the caveat that we be home by nine.

Oh wait, Spike is wanting to say something.

"It's me, Spike. I just wanted everyone to know that it's my birthday. I'm 8 years old today - eight sounds like a big number but it is still younger than Bella and Kabira, so I guess I'm still the baby. I also want to tell you that I'm going to be famous. A bunch of nice girls came here today to take pictures of me. I showed them how I can get Laura's socks - they think I'm pretty smart, which I am. I have to go have a nap now, it's hard work being on camera for so long."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

a few feathery flakes

This morning bright sun sparkled on the heaps of snow that fell yesterday. We figure that close to 40 cm of snow hit the ground here, possibly even close to 50, some of it after the snowblow and shovel yesterday. In fact there is easily another 10+ cm since our snow clearing efforts. So guess what we did this morning…

The sun kept shining as we did our work, a warm hand on the back of my head. My jacket was opened and gloves were thrown onto the already cleared steps. As I bared the dark boards of the deck, the sun melted the remaining snow. Of course this meant that the unshoveled snow continued to get heavier and heavier, or was that my aching arms and back making it feel that way? Nevertheless, it was nice spending some time outside.

After the snow was taken care of, Carm went out and about to do some errands. He came back with a still warm from the oven loaf of white bread from our local bakery. Normally we stick to ‘healthier’ whole wheat breads, but there is something comforting about fresh bread, soft and chewy at the same time. I think you need the extra gluten of white flour to get the right texture. It was a nice reward for all our hard work (and pretty much nix’d the calories we’d burned).

A few feathery flakes are scattered widely through the air, and hover downward with uncertain flight, now almost alighting on the earth, now whirled again aloft into remote regions of the atmosphere.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

and so it snows

Large flakes of snow mixed with ice pellets are falling from the thick clouds that are overhead. We haven't had many snow days this winter so I suppose we are due. It is a good excuse (as if I need one) to curl up on the couch with my tablet to do some writing for the next few meetings. At least it would be good if my brain wasn't a bucket of sludge.

As it was, I spent an hour outside shovelling off the back deck. The size of a city driveway, 14'x52', it is hard work, especially when covered with close to 30 cm of snow. My lack of fitness was highlighted by the effort.

Carm struggled to get the snowblower going and when he finally did, got going on the laneway. Thank goodness we aren't in a snow belt. I do remember that when we got the snowblower it was to be used for clearing out the end of the laneway and not for full fledged snow clearing… we had a guy for that… I guess Carm misses grass cutting!

Yesterday morning an email arrived informing me that the video crew would be arriving early, and here were the questions they'd be asking - they'd like to start filming today instead of Wednesday… Oh my. I whipped around the house tidying, Carm got to work with the vacuum, and then I sat down to formulate my answers. The crew arrived: 4 young women, plus our friend Cathey. They looked around and decided where to shoot the interview then got to work setting up lights and camera. During that time, every intelligent thought and word flew out of my head and I was left a yammering idiot. I would have been golden if I could have read from my document, but that wouldn't work as my eyes would be glued to my screen and not looking at the young lady who was seated just off camera. So I stuttered and blurbed out unintelligible answers. I was disappointed in myself. I heard that the editor is skilled so hopefully she can piece together something halfway good.

The filming only took 30 to 40 minutes, but by the end I felt like I had done a six hour exam. I was exhausted. Obviously the people who do this sort of thing regularly are in 'better shape' than I.

Wednesday they arrive in the morning for another few hours of shooting, this time the b-roll. Those are the shots that will play while my voice drones on. Spike will get to do some work for that. Unfortunately I have confused him about some things as I was trying to teach him one more fetch. He used to run for my socks or a tissue, but now he tries to bring the other thing first. Good planning Laura.

Do you remember the days when you had to manually put in a carriage return and if something changed on your page it was a devil of a job getting all the line breaks figured out? Thankfully that is ancient history.

"If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.
~Edgar Allan Poe

Sunday, February 14, 2016

don't go far off

A platter of sugar in the form of burnt sugar cake, a few coloured candles flickering and a badly sung song, made a birthday celebration that created waves of sugar rush around the table. Waves of happiness and gratefulness for being together also glow. Happy birthday Dad. Last night most of the family (minus NZ contingent), plus Olaf's in-laws, gathered together at Mom and Dad's for a birthday celebration. We squeezed around the table, with barely an inch betweens us.

At 8:30 pm it was time for us to shiver into the car and take the long trek home. Frost on the car windows and bits of ice on the road glimmered in the light from the sliver of moon. The seat heaters didn't even really do their jobs. According to the car thermometer it was -25C, and when I checked the weather site they noted a wind chill of -40C (which was warmer than the -45C wind chill on Friday night). We were glad to get safely home as a trip into the ditch could have horrible consequences.

The dogs made the quickest trip outside that they could and then three-legged it back to the house. There was no lingering to check for the scent of rabbits. I stood outside with them, my hood pulled over my head, and my head tipped back to see the night sky. I expected a sky full of bright stars, but many were hidden from sight. Maybe my eyeballs were frosted over.

Happy Valentines day! Do you have special plans or are you like us: "Everyday is Valentine's Day". And it is: we go about our day as if it were any other day… We are actually celebrating with cooking a piece of meat, prime rib specifically. It is rare that a chunk of beast comes through our doors so it is a special treat.  We'll have yorkshire pudding with it (the roast is really just a vehicle for yorkshire).

"Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying? "

~Pablo Neruda

Friday, February 12, 2016

exit stage left

While waiting for an appointment Wednesday, I started reading 'Elements of Style'. Gosh. The section on commas has me flummoxed. I thought I had a bit of a grasp, but now I'm not so sure. Something about complete prepositional clauses and incomplete ones needing and not needing commas has my head spinning. It doesn't help that I don't fully know what a preposition is, let alone a clause. Why didn't I pay more attention in school all those decades ago?

Yesterday was the creative writing group meeting and I was sure not to miss it, even though it was the coldest morning of the winter (it took several mugs of hot tea to warm up). The feedback that I got from Diane and Nicole on Spike's story is so helpful. They are very good at walking the tightrope between critiquing and criticizing. I feel energized and enthused by their comments.

When Carm checked the mail yesterday afternoon, a white piece of card lay flat on the bottom of the grey metal box. That card, with its blue printing was the cause of much excitement… my blog book had arrived. Carm dashed to the post office and traded in the scrap for a box containing a thick, hardcover book. I was shocked at its thickness and wondered how I could have written so much. (not much to wonder about - this post is over 500 words if you include the quote…)

I immediately sat down and cracked the book open. Niagara Falls, Port Burwell, and our adventure getting out of Presquile lay in front of me. A 1/2 inch further into the book and we were having fun with Ruth and John. It was lovely to flip through our year. This book will join the books from previous years to form a path down memory lane.

We had an 'old work' friend of Carm's over for supper last night. Carm has known Dave for three decades so they have lots of shared experience to talk about. I made and and served supper, then I planned an 'exit stage left'. (Snagglepuss popped into my head as I was rolling 'exit stage left' around in my head). I like the term - it gives the expression of skedaddling out of the room but hadn't thought of Snagglepuss for many, many years. The brain works in marvelous ways!

I didn't actually make my exit until far into the night. That's not to say there was no work talk, but it was more about people than than nuts and bolts. My eyes did glaze over when Carm started lecturing about black holes and gravity waves. I bet Dave wished he had never asked for Carm's thoughts on Stephen Hawking… Hello - we aren't in school!

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. If you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away.”  ~Stephen Hawking

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Spike has been rehearsing his lines for his internet video debut which is scheduled to happen at the end of March. My story about taking Spike to work got chosen for a book about Stigma in mental health and addiction. (I'll be a published author! So will Carm, which takes a bit of the glam out.) Since the story is about Spike's time as a service dog they want to have us on a video that will be on their website - details will follow sometime in the next several weeks. So we've been practicing some of the things he used to know how to do. He's fine with all attention as it involves a fair number of yummy treats (at least for now). He's not sure if he'll go to the book signing party as it sounds like something for grownups.

My two new writing books arrived in the mail yesterday. Shrunk and White's 'The Elements of Style' is a little reader full of helpful tidbits on grammar. It is the sort of book that I'd want beside me when I was writing something (it's beside me now, but since I have barely cracked the cover it isn't doing me much good).
The other book is 'How to Write a Sentence' by Stanley Fish. I read a bit of it today - I think it will be interesting. But the author is a lawyer and writes like one. Nothing about his sentences are like the ones suggested in 'Writing Tools' or 'On Writing Well', both well regarded tomes. They suggest that sentences be simple and multi-syllable words be used only when necessary. Both books were engaging and easy to read. I've already been struggling with the sentence one and often have to go back to re-read something that wasn't clear. Oh my. Still, I expect I'll learn something.

For our first Creative Writing meeting this winter we each shared a paragraph or two from a favorite book. I had just started reading Maya Angelou’s  "Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry like Christmas". These are the first two paragraphs. Aren't they wonderful?

   Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

   In my rented room (cooking privileges down the hall), I would play a record, then put my arms around the shoulders of the song. As we danced, glued together, I would nuzzle into its neck, kissing the skin, and rubbing its cheek with my own.

Monday, February 8, 2016

porcupine teddy bears

I never seem to have the right words when I need them. That's what I like about writing. I can mull the sentence over in my mind until the message is just as I want it.

There were a few times lately when the right words might have helped a friend, or at least not validate his rumination. He lamented that he was having a hard time because of anniversaries of traumatic events. Instead of asking him what he's doing about moving forward with his life and not letting memories control his mood, I just grunted. We can get stuck in events in the past and not realize that it is our choice as to when to let them go. We can grasp them like a porcupine teddy bear, a sort of comfort coming from familiarity, forgetting that each replay is damaging us. Isn't it better to look that memory in the eye and tell it to go away, that it has no power over you anymore.

I'm not saying that these anniversaries should never be looked at, but perhaps instead of wallowing in misery it is a good time to review where you've gone with your life and if you aren't happy with the answer, put some thought into how you might do better. I wish there was some way that I could help my friend get through this.

I think that I have done this rather successfully, although there are still some events that swirl emotion in my gut. The one that comes to mind is the morning my cat, Puff, was hit by a car. 'Puff the Magic Dragon' still chokes me up, but it doesn't grab me by the ankle and pull me down into the murky depths for days. Maybe I'm being idealistic and since I'm not talking from real experience, (I haven't lost a close loved one or been divorced), I may not know what I'm saying. Or, were there other traumatic events in my life and I've processed and dismissed them already?

"Bring the past only if you are going to build from it.”  ~Doménico Cieri Estrada

Friday, February 5, 2016

ashes and sparks

The sun is shining today, there is no breeze, and the cold doesn't gnaw at your cheeks. A lovely day for a walk outside. Oh, wait. There is a coating of ice over everything, thick enough to hold me on the snow for a few steps and then I break through. I could lurch for a walk, one foot crashing through the ice, while the other one takes a spin on top. Sometimes I just want to go for a walk and not be huffing and puffing and winding up flat on my back. Just a nice walk where I can enjoy the blue sky and pale yellow sun. Where I can hear the birds singing. Where I can sling my camera over my shoulder and find nice things to take pictures of. A walk. Uninterrupted by ragged breath and tricky footing.

Instead I closed the blinds to the brilliant sun and climbed onto the treadmill. I watched TV instead of Nature's glory, but at least I was moving again. A quick glance over my shoulder and I could see the futon with sun spots filled with poodles and ridgebacks, they haven't left a spot for me, but that's okay (for now).

The big west window in the living room needs washing. On the inside is some dog nose-painting, but the outside of the window… filthy. The sun shines in that window in the late afternoon and reflects off all the dirt. Everytime I lift my eyes from my tablet (for example, while writing this), I am faced with the mess.

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
    Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
    And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
    Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
    Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O, wind,
    If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, February 4, 2016

cut of bread and tea

I sat on the sofa with a tea steaming on the table in front of me, Earl Grey with milk and sugar. That delicious guilt, like when skipping a day of work, churned in my stomach. My sleep last night was restless, I tossed and turned like a ghostly galleon on cloudy seas. Not that there was anything stormy, just hot legs that didn't want rest. Maybe the dog was too close. Or maybe my legs were tired from having done nothing but lie in bed and read 'Angela's Ashes'; tired from running down Irish lanes with only a bit of bread in my stomach. Regardless, I woke up when night had not fully changed to morning and turned off my alarm clock.

I haven't skipped out on writing group for anything other than valid reasons, but today I did. It isn't because I feel depressed, I feel quite fine, just tired.

My idle pleasures yesterday and today? Yesterday I read all day, tucked into bed or stretched out on the sofa. I fried up an egg to have with some lefse when the book made me hungry. After chapters of nothing but a cut of bread and weak tea, I'm ready for a feast: corned beef and cabbage would be good, but like Frankie in the book, there's none in the house and I feel privileged to have even an egg.

Tulips, even when they are on their last legs, are a pleasure. The bright pink is especially treasured on these grey days. I leave the fallen blossoms where they fall as they still colour the winter gloom.

Today I finished the book. This is a big milestone for me as I rarely have the concentration to read a whole book. I didn't start something new right away - I needed time to savour and think. I took the dogs into the field today - my feet broke through the thin layer of ice with a satisfying crackle. The sun stuck its head out for a while, blinding me as I sat in my spot on the sofa writing this. I reveled in its brightness for a while then moved to a shadier spot. When your days consist of not much other than reading, the list of pleasures are simple!

Oh wait, another pleasure (and one that will be a pleasure for many, many days)! Carm ordered me two  books: 'Elements of Style', and 'How to Write a Sentence'.  I'm waiting on another book, but it is in NY, NY… I broke down and got my 2015 blog printed into a book again. I have a bookshelf of my years since retirement.  At some point I'll stop printing them but I still get a big charge out of the thick books of photos and words. Did I really write 400 pages last year?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

WYL #22a Highs and Lows Continuation of building our house

Raising the Roof

The shaking earth jarred me out of my reverie. Tears welled in my eyes as I watched the first swath of earth being gouged by the shovel’s bucket to reveal where the long envisioned foundation would sit.

The hours wore on, until mid-day when quiet replaced the rumble of the machine and a large flat hole lay where a small hill had once been. As if on cue, a few pickup trucks followed by a large truck full of boards turned into the field and drove down to the gaping hole. Several men jumped out and with stakes and lengths of string mapped out the edges of where the footings would go. The hot day wore on and soon the sweaty men stripped down to jeans, their shirts tossed aside in a pile. I sat to the side and watched, my own Chippendale's show, as the strings were fortified with lumber.

As Nick watched, he checked his watch often. Closing time for the cement plant was quickly nearing and he wanted to get the footing filled before the weekend. The workers hurried. By late afternoon a channel defined the outline of our home. At exactly the right moment a cement mixer, with its rolling belly, turned into the yard and edged its way to the brink of the hole, releasing grey slurry down a track and into the channel. More trucks followed until the space defined by the boards was brimming with cement. Day one was complete and we were on our way to a new house.

Every day for the next 9 weeks we stopped at the house to see its progress. From the footings to a foundation to a floor, walls and then a roof, the house was taking shape. When the outside was sheathed and the windows and doors were in, it was time for an important step: insulation and vapour barrier. Since we wanted an R2000 home, every tiny gap to the outside had to be sealed, and Nick made sure they were - there would be a penalty if the house failed to pass the test.

Unlike most home construction, all the framing was not done at the same time. The interior walls were left until after the vapour barrier was fully in place. This meant that the interior of the house was fully sealed from any cold drafts. Once the walls were raised we saw the bones of the rooms; until then we weren't sure if the plan that had been so carefully laid out on the computer would work out in real life. Electrical and plumbing were installed, drywall went up, hardwood floor and tile was installed, doors and trim were completed, and then finally, it was painted.

Moving day had arrived.

My mom, and Brian, a friend, helped with some of the small stuff, including the 10 parrots, 3 dogs and 2 cats, while a moving company wrestled with everything else. It was a long day but finally all our stuff was inside our new home. We said farewell to our helpers, and then, even though we were exhausted, got to work on placing some of the furniture and setting up the waterbed. It took a few days for everything to find a place. We loved the space and light of our new home. Speaking of space, the first few purchases were: cordless phones (we had to run from the sofa to get to the phone in the kitchen and sometimes missed calls); and a 4' wide mop for our ginormous room. We had a small dust mop, but it was a joke.

Nothing had been done outside the house except laying the gravel laneway. No grass covered the heavy clay mud that surrounded us. We nearly went out of our minds with 3 dogs going in and out of the house, but there was nothing we could do as it was already late September. Thankfully the hay field that skirted the brown mire spread its seeds and by the end of the following spring we could walk without getting 5lbs of muck on our boots.

Designing and then building a house was an amazing undertaking. Seeing some lines on a computer screen morph into a house was an experience like no other. I suppose in a tiny way it was like giving birth (without all the pain) as Carm and my ideas melded into a plan which grew into a solid structure. We felt very lucky to have this wonderful opportunity.