cardboard box forts and things I’ll never know

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The summer before I started first grade was marked by moving to a new house on Woodlawn Avenue that came with a barn and a field that adjoined the property of a new elementary school being built. My school. King School.

My older brother, me and a loosely formed gaggle gang of neighbourhood kids spent August swimming, riding our bikes around and spying on the construction workers finishing up the school.  Our recon missions weren’t un-noticed and as the workers unpacked desks and furniture  they chatted with us and let us drag the large cardboard boxes across the school yard to the field behind my house.

Each of us got own box and working like a team of ants we wrestled them into place in the field.  From there we each decorated our cardboard box forts as our own drawing in crayon and cutting out windows as we set up our little village. KEEP OUT! signs on the forts of the older kids, and colourful scribbles on the rest.

The big kids, those 8 year olds, got the prime fort placements away from the spiders’ nests and dips in the field and soon social networks were established within the fort village.  I had to share my fort with my 4-year-old sister who most times was more of a pest than a compatriot. When one of the big boys invited us into his fort and asked her to lift up her shirt and he would let us stay, she started to pull up her t-shirt and I said “no” and we ran away not sure of what was wrong but feeling like something was.

Steve, the next door neighbour kid who came with the story that he was in an accident when he was little and had to wear a tight belt around his middle or his “guts and gizzards would fall down and he would die”.  Something I’ll never know.

The kid who lived catty corner to us who was from Pakistan and gave me a little brass camel that I still have.  How did he end up in Oregon City with his family from so far away? Something I’ll never know.

The old  man two houses away who never trimmed his hedge giving the yard the ominous look we needed to spin stories about him being scary.  Every Halloween he dressed up in a floppy green rubber Godzilla suit and became over six feet of stumbling lizard terrifying us all. He also gave out the best candy. What did he do when he wasn’t Godzilla?  Something I’ll never know.

I started first grade without first going to kindergarten.  My brother went to kindergarten.  Why didn’t I? My parents never told me and it’s something I’ll never know now.

The answers and explanations to many childhood memories disintegrate into time like the cardboard box forts becoming soggy, folding in on themselves and tearing apart with the fall rains. Who cleaned up our cardboard box forts after we left our village in the field and stepped into the school year? Something I’ll never know.

 

 

oh those duck lips….

……an adventure in cosmetic tourism.

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Well, it was only cosmetic tourism due to my accident. A freak accident….(aren’t ALL accidents freaks?) put me in ranks of those travelling far and wide returning with altered appearances.

So here’s the thing; people do fall flat on their faces.  Nope, it’s not just a saying, and I proved it.  It’s the quick pop up, hands groping, feeling the damage that’s the realization of “F*@K, I’ve really done it this time”. Chips of tooth, too much blood were all I had to go by since I was alone,  there were no streetlights, it was dark and I was eight blocks from my hotel.

And here’s the other thing…..what the hell is wrong with people who walked around me like I had the ability to part the seas on the sidewalk; who didn’t miss a step getting to where ever they were going?  The only person who asked if I was ok was a homeless guy who said ” hey lady, are you ok?” and offered to share his grubby little roach which he told me was from really good weed and would help with the pain.  I thanked him, said no, and trundled on to my hotel.

Cosmetic tourism probably has a certain panache with hotels catering to clients and so forth. Picture me trying to get through the lobby up to my room with a bloody kleenex over my face – not even sure what people saw when they looked at me. I was a freak!

Shout out to Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego.  Although three hours in the emergency waiting room was oddly reminiscent of the famous Star Wars bar scene, the care was awesome. A little plastic surgery putting me back together and I was good to go albeit with a sewn-up, swelled-up lip accessorized by a healthy dash of road rash on my chin and nose to complete the look.

Here’s my question to Angelina, Julia, all those gorgeous sexy ladies with duck lips……when will mine turn sexy? The look just isn’t working for me yet…….

 

 

 

please don’t hate me ’cause I eat carbs

 

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At a surprise birthday event this week a  large beautiful sheet cake was presented beside a stack of little plates, napkins and plastic forks.  A feeble rendition of “Happy Birthday” was sung with no one hitting the high note – nothing unusual there. So the cake was cut and plates began to be passed around the table – and around, and around the table. “No, none for me….”,  “my diet…”, “I’m not eating carbs…”, no thank you, no thank you, no thank you.  Well, until the cake got to me.  A few of us had cake, but the big diet thing was hanging over us like a disapproving cloud.  Savouring my first forkful of cake with fluffy icing, I felt like I could have been drinking wine out of a styrofoam cup at an AA meeting.

I’ve lived through a whole lot of diets with colleagues.  The cabbage soup diet the entire office was on had us walking around farting like livestock.  I’m pretty sure there’s a hole in the ozone above that office building.  Continue reading

fall walks

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Fall came in and shoved all the summer pastels to the back of the closet bringing out the golds, the ambers, the deep rust colours. It’s as if Fall knows that gold tone eyeshadow makes blue eyes pop and is using the nearly iridescent gold leaves to show off the dazzling blue sky.

It’s unusually beautiful this year; drier than usual and no storms so far, so the leaves are staying as crisp as the fresh air. Makes for stunning walks and a yard carpeted with gold.

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Mr. Bear was out doing his fall fattening up and climbed over the fence onto my sundeck to chew a hole in the garbage can feasting on remnants of rotisserie chicken. Can’t really blame him for that – I’ve had much the same inclination to chew through a pizza box after catching a whiff of hot bubbling cheese on pepperoni pizza. Still, I don’t want to run into him again so the garbage cans are secured in the pump house for now.

The sound of a chainsaw singing its way through dry pine and the smell of wood smoke drifting by like the faint contrails of a jet off to somewhere….feels like picking the last of the crab apples to make beautiful clear jelly.

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As we rounded the corner on the homeward stretch of our walk, we ran into Young Buck. He said “Hey, how are you?” in quiet deer talk.  He said ” haven’t been around your place since I ate your spring tulips, but I’m out looking for a bedding down place under your trees for winter.  I always liked your yard”.  He and Jasmine stood for a minute looking at each other and I told him to go back into the forest until hunting season is over and he bounded away in disappearing in the trees.

I love fall in the north.

reflections in the bridal shop window

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Walking to work every day I pass by the bridal shop on the way to and from my office.  I stop and check when the dresses in the window change and I wonder if they’ve gone off to walk down the aisle or to the marked down section in the back of the store.

I took a picture one day with the intention of writing a bit of a bitchy blog post about it.  As bitchy as I am when I talk about my wedding dress. Bitchy to say all these years later that I made my own wedding dress and had no one; no mother to care. So, that’s what this post was supposed to be.

But it’s not.

You see, a couple of days ago as I hurried up the block on my way to the parkade after work , I saw a lady stopped on the sidewalk looking in the window at the dresses.  Something about the lady and how she was looking in the window slowed my march along the sidewalk and I stopped beside her.

We stood side by side quietly looking at wedding dresses. Me, fresh from work with the dress, details like fancy nails and lipstick, briefcase and designer purse, and the lady slightly stooped over in a faded looking beige sweater, short bowl-cut shaped grey hair with a few soft whiskers on her chin.

I said “they’re lovely, aren’t they?”  and she said “yes, they certainly are”.  For some reason I blurted out that I’d made my own dress and it wasn’t lovely like these and I told her I ended up throwing it out last year because I hated it so much.

The lady said “oh my dear, that’s sad”.  She said “I still have my dress after 56 years and still love it. It’s turning a bit yellow now, but still beautiful”.  With our faces bathed in the soft tulle, satin and lace reflection in the window I  said “and I can see you 56 years ago as the beautiful bride you were.”

I continued on my way warmed by her smile reflected in the bridal shop window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

only so many barks to give

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Molly comes out to bark at us every day as we walk by her house.  She roars off the porch with the determination of a much younger very much fiercer guard dog running along her fence line beside us as we meander down the hill.

I noticed lately that her bark is much quieter than it used to be; almost like the whispery voice of an old lady that we need to lean in close to in order to hear what she’s talking about.  And while Molly starts out with a big bark when she sees us, she only barks a few times quietly in conversation with us as we walk by.  It’s like she’s saving what she has to say; she only has so many barks to give so she makes them count. At least that’s my theory with Molly’s barks.

A little over a week ago it was my birthday.  I am between the age of “yay!!! it’s my birthday and I want everyone to know it” and the age where the server in a restaurant brought me a senior menu and explained in a loud voice (although she didn’t know of my deafness) that it was senior day and so forth……. BTW I ordered a steak from the regular menu.   Continue reading

stuck on a rock

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I’m stuck! Help me!!

The thing is, my little friend Buddy, you aren’t really stuck.  You got up there; you tippy-toed through the water and climbed up on your perch, tail wagging and smiling until you realized where you are.  In the middle –  surrounded by – feeling abandoned and helpless.

The only thing worse than the feeling of being stuck with your feet in metaphorical quicksand as you struggle to move, to make decisions is to watch someone you care about struggle with being stuck.

But…. we’re human and terribly imperfect klutzy beings so we laugh.

When I was seven years old I decided to climb the huge cherry tree in our front yard in Oregon City.  I climbed, and I climbed.  Oh, I was a nimble little monkey scooting out on a big branch and surveying the yard from my lofty perch as I gorged on plump Ranier cherries. Then the lightening bolt of terror hit me. Suddenly the fun drained out of my adventure and I was paralyzed with fear and couldn’t move. I couldn’t scoot back to the trunk and shimmy down; I could only sit on the branch and hang on with sweaty palms. I yelled at my big brother to go get Dad to help me.  Of course big brother laughed and my moment was saved from time immemorial only because we didn’t have the ability to snap pics and text them to our network of friends. Dad eventually came out and all he had to do was lift up his arms and hold me as I slid off the branch which was barely above his head. To hold me in his arms until the panic subsided and he set me off on my next adventure full of confidence to climb again when I found the next tree to explore.

Being stuck is so much a state of mind; in a tree or on a rock, and the best we can do is offer arms to catch and hold long enough to set us free.

The swift water rescue team is on the way Buddy, as soon as your Mom stops sending me pics of you stranded on your rock and wades in to get you.

 

 

that one friend

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Who’s to say where we find that one friend – in a new job orientation session, in an airplane, in a theatre sharing Ted X, in a dish drainer.

Pipy found her friend who doesn’t judge, doesn’t criticize, just listens in the dish drainer. While Pipy’s friend resembles her in almost every way, it isn’t a prerequisite or condition of finding that one friend.

Friendship is wondrous as it grows and evolves. That one friend what just”‘gets it” is a true rarity and an adventure to be brave enough to dive into head first. Watching Pipy and her friend as they talk, talk, talk sharing excitement, chirps and joys is how others see us interacting with our one friend.  The engagement is contagious and we can’t help but share in it, by backing away and watching Pipy chat with her friend or by having a stranger comment that watching the conversation is heartwarming.

The beauty of that one friend is in celebrating differences as well as shared vision. The daily chat of that one friend as a steady companion in shared situation, a shared “help you get through the day”, a shared “well done!” Priceless.

The beauty of that one friend is the resilience that allows the friendship to go on sabbatical and come back refreshed.  Tanya will inevitably empty the dish drainer and put that one friend away, but not to worry Pipy, the true friendship will show up again the next time you are together.

As always, thanks Tanya for sharing Pipy with me.

 

 

i’ll give you a daisy a day, dear

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Our walks give us a changing mural as plants step forward to flourish in their short moments in the summer sun.  We always look forward to the daisies dancing in the sunshine along side the fireweed and purple clover.  They are the smiles of the group.

Such is our delight in wandering in the untamed “country” as opposed to the city.  Sure they have beautiful flower beds carefully tended by city workers, but we prefer our hikes where we discover wild raspberries and the pretty golden fox that flirted with us today.

I’m reminded of my friend who appreciates the “wild” and lives nestled in some hundreds of acres of wilderness that he explores with sled dogs in the winter and llamas in the summer. On a visit to a gated retirement city where snowbirds from Canada flock to in the winter, he told me the community was so manicured that he was pretty sure the few wild rabbits around there were bathed and fluffed up to be picture perfect and not really so wild.

Delighting in the exotic-to-us fresh oranges picked from the tree, he verified that there is indeed a tipping point in how many fresh oranges a person should devour in the novelty of the moment.  Much like me with fresh pineapple in Maui.  That tipping point.

But back to our daisies. Summer in the north of Canada is magical. Not manicured. Not managed.  With a growing season measured in weeks and daylight staying around until well past bedtime urging plants to show their stuff, it’s just magic.

Nope, no oranges to pick here, but enough daisies to “give you a daisy a day, dear and love you until the rivers run still and the four winds we know blow away”.

A Daisy a Day  – song by Ernest Tubb 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

broken things and the hummingbird

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As I moved the table to sweep behind it this morning, it fell apart.  The legs separated like they were too weary to stand and the side piece fell out.  I was upset and tried to put its legs back to where they belonged and get them to stay there so I could provide first aid and mend it.

Why was I so upset? After all, it’s kind of regular little table. My son recently bought a house that has two matching tables left in a pile of other discarded stuff in the garage.  I said to him “hey those match my table.  You should take them in and use them.”  He said “nah, I don’t really like them.

This little table was left in the first house we bought and with little to no money for extra furniture, I spent hours stripping the turquoise paint and sanding it to turn it into a useable table. It’s come along to every house and home with us for 30 years like an old friend.

It’s not a big deal; just something broken to be fixed.

A change of scene took me outside to water my flowers for some nurturing zen- in- the- flower- garden time.  I know that the hose connection leaks.  I’m reminded every time I drag the hose clear down to the road to reach the farthest hanging baskets as the hose spurts, gurgles and squirts water out of the joint.  And yes, I have tightened it and tightened it and tightened it complete with new washer in it.  I need a new hose, yup.

As I pull the hose and stretch to reach the hanging baskets, the leaky joint took direct aim at the front my  shirt and with a fountain now having graduated from a single squirt, it got me full on.

In the seconds as I looked down and grabbed the hose to yank it away, a tiny blue-green hummingbird darted in and hovered  six inches in front of me in the spray of water.  I stood still and didn’t move and watched the delicate tiny bird play.  It darted to the flowers and back several times returning to hover in the droplets of water. I stood there as background for hummingbird play until it darted off to whereever hummingbirds dart off to.

Heading back up to the house, dragging the hose and dripping wet I smiled.  It’s not always about what’s wrong; what’s broken.  Sometimes, it’s just about what’s right.

 

 

 

i’m here not gone

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Every once in a while we run into an urgency  in our lives that makes us stop the car and run out to deal with it. Somewhere between the first and second MRI was my moment to slow the car and pull over.

At first all you can think about is the urgency.  The “this is here and now and if I don’t deal with it I will explode” feeling. Overwhelming. That’s what it is.  And we’ve all been there; not one of us is exempt from it hitting us in varying degrees throughout our lives.

So pull over and stop for a few minutes and understand the dynamics of the situation.  My hearing is hurt because… or my life is changing because….or my life hasn’t really changed because….. so many variables to understand.  Stop and pull over.

We’re not defined by the moments we need to be held up but by how we climb back up the bank, get back in the car and continue the adventure. I’m back in the car and on my way.

By the way, this photo is of my Mom and sister – which yes, has provided my brother and I endless amounts of sibling glee over the years and I have to admit…..it still does. It seems we never really grow up.