travelling with my emotional support chicken

When I was buying camping groceries I ran across the chicken. Self-checkout challenges my grocery packing abilities so the chicken ended up being squished in between cans of baked beans, deli potato salad and smokies. The chicken began honking and screaming as I jostled the bag – trying to make a quick exit because it sounded uncannily like a baby screaming in the bottom of my heavy duty re-useable bag. I laughed all the way to the car.

The fall is a hard time for me. It has been since I was ten years old, and the smell of the fall air, the crisp mornings that invite the first toques and gloves and the beauty of the colours are there for me but underneath all that, it’s a tough time. Too much sorrow, too many losses in the fall marking anniversaries; I don’t fixate on the dates, but the calendar pages turn and there I am again and it feels heavy…in the fall.

With the steelhead running and the days shortening I know it’s time to step it up and get busy sweeping aside the “hard time” of the fall like sweeping leaves off the deck and find the good. The good is camping in my little trailer where Lena takes up most of the bed and Mark and I play endless games of cribbage. ( I am ahead in wins…..by the way). The good is baking so many apple pies that I have to share them with friends because my freezer is small. The good is the squirrel feeling of stacking the woodpile for the chill that’s on its way. The good is taking my Grandson to lunch and sharing nachos and mojitos. The good is taking Lena for walks in the park where a little girl thought she was a sheep – about as far from a Borzoi as they come – “she’s so white and soft – she must be a sheep”.

Lena is tucked in travelling to our campsite with her emotional support chicken and I’m tucked into the fall determined to celebrate the good that will support me emotionally as I travel through the next couple months. Kinda the same only Lena’s chicken makes AWESOME squawking sounds.

#fall #emotionalsupportchicken #cribbage #Borzoi #camping

things that can’t be erased

-coffee stains on the carpet – I know, you were going with dog pee but you’re wrong. Black coffee spilled will come back to haunt you again and again. My sage green carpet attests to this.

– that seventh grade yearbook photo where I had the blue velvet bow in my hair just above my rolled

bangs – like a poodle or a yorkie purse puppy. Just how many copies of that picture were there anyway that they come up every time I get one of the “here, you might as well have these photos now” boxes from my parents?

-that time we had guests for dinner and over dessert of weird peanut butter pie my husband looked at me and said “Sue, this is really terrible- it didn’t work out” and to the guests “you don’t have to eat this if you don’t want”….but I didn’t make the pie; the guests did…… Can’t erase it because it was SO GOOD one of those moments I can’t let him forgetJ Oh, and it really was disgusting pie.

-that time almost 30 years ago that I had a really horrible boss.  I went in to confront him over a blatant discriminatory action he had taken towards me.  As I nervously leaned over his desk for leverage, I farted. Loudly. Yup, can’t erase that moment of shock on his face, or the surprise on mine, or the few quiet seconds before I launched into my issue….

– that feeling that fills you up when someone says “I’m proud of you”. Yeah, we should do that to each other more often.

– that time and age thing. It’s a weird space to be in where you look around at “old people” and realize you are thought of as one of them. And…. It’s ok to ask for help sometimes…. That’s cool; just go with it.

The idea that we need to erase things, moments, people from our lives for whatever reason – just realize that things are never really gone; stains, good moments, bad moments. They all keep us humble when we need it, give us strength when we need it, keep us laughing when we need to, and that’s ok. Remember from school when you rubbed too hard with the eraser and left holes in the paper? Yeah.

#moments #family #mistakes #growingup #work#badbosses

goosie

I caught a glimpse of you staring back at me as I walked by the bevelled mirrors of the china cabinet today.  I saw you in the window off the deck last week.  I heard your voice as I changed the voicemail message on my phone.  But not really, because you’re dead.

I know you’re dead because Step-sister left a message on my phone telling me so.

I called her after I listened to the voicemail several times with the message of three flat words telling me you died today.  I asked “what happened?” She said you had your death all planned and her part of the plan was to manage the telephone tree and call me to notify me and there is no more information for me. That ended our call. 

I get it that you died.  She told me. I talked about it with our brother after she called and that was the end of anything to do with your death.  Step-mom never mentioned it, no obituary was in the local paper, no nothing. It’s as if the telephone tree notification was all that was required or expected.

So yeah, I catch glimpses of you which are really my reflection. And I hear your voice which is really mine. After all, genetics are a strong force that can’t be erased; can’t be denied.  You and I had the same eyes, the same walk, the same voice which creeped me out the first time I heard your phone message and thought it was me talking. You could say we weren’t close. You haven’t been to my house for over 30 years, and it was only a few times before that even though you drove by many, many times. I stopped at your house once and you were overjoyed to see me but that faded as the “we don’t want you in our lives” step-family contingent took you over again.  

I don’t know where you are. Maybe that’s why I keep dreaming about you.  Are you buried in a grave? Are your ashes spread in some flower bed? What happened to you? And why didn’t you tell me, who shared a room with you through your childhood night terrors, who shared a Mom with you, that you were dying? Why wasn’t it in your plan to tell me goodbye? I ask the reflection in the window but there’s no answer.

I remember Dad calling you Goosie where you were little, taking me back to times of matching dresses with sashes tied in the back, a shared room and being my sister.

#grief#death#family#sisters

the fish book, war and the virus

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Someone started the fish book the year the boat was built. Dad was six years old that year and I can imagine him hanging around Grandpa’s shop listening to the Uncles as they hammered and glued and put the boat together. In a weird time shift, see me at 6 years old in the shop at our house in Oregon where my Dad was building  his own boat.  Mahogany.  I remember;  the smell of planed wood and many coats of varnish.

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apple pies, geese and those subscriptions

 

IMG_8780.JPGThe past couple days I drove 800 kilometres (that’s 500 miles for the unconverted) to make pie. From scratch.  From picking the apples to perfecting the pie crust.  A dozen pies.

Why would I do that? It’s the time of year when we balance the ripening of the apples with the hunger of bears fattening up for winter.  The time of year when we harvest and bake and preserve for our own winter fattening up.  IMG_4715.JPG

Why else would I do that? Because it was a time spent in my son’s kitchen side by side as we peeled, cored, sliced and baked for a day.

My friend said it seems like a lot of work when you can just have pie delivered right to your door every week or month if you want.

Yes, in this age of subscription services we CAN have virtually everything delivered to our doors.  On my drive I listened to the radio ads touting subscription services for clothing, razors, dinners and tampons.  Tampons. It said for those times you are in need of a tampon the subscription service will be there.  Really?  So, you find yourself in need of tampons, you check the delivered boxes on your porch and find the dog toy box of things your dog won’t play with, your fridge filter replacement  that you forgot you ordered, a subscription to the oh so handy kitchen sponge replacement.  Oh so handy…. in this case….. maybe? Oh for the olden days when we could just pop into the store and pick up tampons when needed.

As we enjoyed fresh-baked pie and a glass of wine, we watched the Canadian geese “goose stepping” up from the lake to rest on the neighbour’s lawn.  I was fascinated by watching them up close and followed their schedule for a couple of days.  They headed out to the water in the early evening and at noon the next day started coming toward shore in groups of 15 or 20.  After they all gathered, with much honking and noise, they headed up to the lawn. They will do this for a few days until they head off further south. Year after year, they come back.

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Nature’s subscription service for all of us and we didn’t even have to sign up and give a credit card number. Berries and apples every year; bears to watch and wonder at, geese flying in and out again.

Go outside. Smell the fall air.  Listen to the geese. Pick some apples. Make some pie.

 

 

he ate my signature

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The phone call totally made my week.  The guy calls and tells me he has a problem.  He says it’s hard to explain.

 He tells me he has a situation with the document he needed to sign and send to me and that he has a new puppy. Ok.  He tells me that he signed the paper and had it on the coffee table and when he left the room the puppy ate his signature; ate the bottom of the paper right off where his signature was. Ok, so of course I asked what kind of puppy it is and he says it’s a black Lab.

Say no more.

Always dangerous, that quiet was, and as if bursting from starting blocks on a track Benjamin gallops around the round oak coffee table waving my new peach satin Victoria’s Secret bra from his mouth with great delight.  Cups flapping on his ears like headphones that can’t get a grip, straps shinning across his nose, he’s clearly thrilled with his dresser surfing prize and is trying with all his might to entice me to join in the chase.  I yelled, I commanded,  and he raced faster and faster around the table reminding me of one of my childhood bedtime story books where the tiger races around in a circle until it turns into butter.  Totally  frustrated, I flopped down in the chair in the living room and decided to wait him out. Let him eat my bra, I was tired of the whole game. Benjamin walked over and with the classic Labrador soft mouth, laid my bra gently on my lap as he looked up at me with “you are my world” eyes. It’s hard to explain.

We take our fancy new RV trailer up in northern BC to remoteness. Rivers, bears and dead salmon.  The spawners that drift up on the bank and feed bears and eagles.  I make a special dinner and set the table in the trailer with placemats, wine glasses and flowers and Mark takes Benjamin out for a pee.  The short leash while walking along the river bank trying to avoid  the dead salmon mine field didn’t quite work as Benjamin found one that Mark missed,  flips over on his back and gloriously rolls  in stinking, slimy rotting fish, legs pumping the air as he shimmies and slides in the goo before Mark can yank him up.  I open the trailer door to a fuming Mark and a putrid Benjamin.  Did I mention that it was raining steady our whole trip? Like raincoat essential rain? Using all our shampoo to wash our stinking dog and all our towels to dry him, we spend the rest of the week convincing ourselves that we’re having a great time as campers do when they’re really miserable in the rain. We camped all summer in beautiful places and weather, but it was awhile before we lost the aroma of wet dog and rotten salmon with notes of Febreeze.  You just don’t pick that up in the fine air freshener aisle.  It’s hard to explain.

As I listened to the guy explain how his new puppy had eaten his signature, the Benjamin stories started popping up in my mind.  I felt a sharp stab of nostalgia.  It’s hard to explain.

 

Photo:  Benjamin – my best friend for many years.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

for you, for Mother’s Day

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We all have people special to us; closer in some ways than if by blood with the family last name.  A couple of weeks ago I had a journey with my “daughter-ish” person who holds a dear place in my heart.

Perhaps being family is more than the signed registry and wedding ring.

Perhaps being family is more than supporting each other through raising a young man we are so proud of.

Perhaps being family is more than sharing the love of a little fat dog.

Perhaps being family is more than the obligatory Mother’s Day phone call.

Perhaps being family is sharing delight in finding the things that warm our hearts…..or our privates, as we wander through vintage shops together.

I am blessed.