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.

 

 

goat whiskers and things my mother never told me

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I have a birthday this week.  Birthdays remind us of aging of course, and with this comes some questions I have for my mother.  Like, why didn’t you tell me?

As I sat across from a colleague at a business meeting a few years ago I was mesmerized by a freaky inch and a half long hair on her chin  waving in the gently blowing HVAC breeze in the little room.  My mind wandered from the budget variance agenda to wonder how she lived with that? Like does she blow dry it? Condition it? Does she not have tweezers?

Goat whiskers, my Mom called them. But she didn’t tell me they grace us all as we age.  She didn’t tell me that tweezers will be your new best friend in a few years.

My Mom said that if you slept in your underpants you would grow funny.  I am not sure if that’s ‘Ha Ha funny” or “weird funny”.  I may have dodged that bullet.  Just sayin’.

I was introduced to face cream and moisturizer at an early age. Many, many thanks for that Mom. I remember overhearing (or eavesdropping as us kids so often did) my parents talking about a friend of ours “she needs to wear a turtleneck or hide at Thanksgiving”.  A comment I thought uproariously funny at the time. Not so much now.

Elbows, for some reason were super important. It seemed that potential husbands would flee with horror at the sight of elbows peeking out like bearded dragons from the 3/4 sleeves of the peter pan collared blouses we wore.

Maybe it’s not fair to say my Mom never told me.  After all, we all age and change and morph into versions of ourselves we may not be ready for.  The grace is in accepting that it will happen, and fight to preserve what we can  or wish to. The grace is in staying healthy; taking control of what we can. The grace is in being happy with the here and now.

And as my friend says ” carry a pair of tweezers on your key chain”.

wait a minute – where’s the cellulite?

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Those ads.  The all-inclusive resort, azure blue waters, all the beautiful people. I can almost feel the soft tropical wind gently blowing the sarong slouched oh-so-sexy on my hips.

Wait a minute……. where’s the cellulite?   Continue reading

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.

 

 

 

Pedro poops in my yard and other neighbourhood notes this week

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Pedro saunters through my yard on his quarter-mile jaunt up to the neighbour’s house where he snuggles on the soft deck chairs and purrs.  On the way he stops and poops among the dahlias and bachelor buttons in my flower bed. I gotta give that little black cat some creds for his bravery considering all the foxes and lynx around.

A text this week to my next-door neighbour ” Bear on the way up to your place from our yard. Put the snacks away!”  The “snacks” including their Shih Tzu who fearlessly barks at EVERYTHING but might be seen by the bear as a perfectly coiffed fat rodent.

I discovered that I CAN do a sprint worthy of the anchor leg in a relay when I need to.  As Jasmine and I were walking halfway down a long hill the two moose that have been around all winter rounded the bottom of the hill at a “moose lope”.  When they saw us they shifted gears into a “moose canter/gallop” towards us so we turned around and sprinted up the hill and around the corner.  Seems moose lose interest after they make you scurry around the corner.

Angel cookies. These are the big dog cookies that the neighbour always has for Jasmine as we pass them on our walks or to be handed in through the truck window as we drive by. Usually more than one cookie as Jasmine shamelessly flirts and begs.

Note to self: Lady, you live in a cool neighbourhood!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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

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.

 

 

wild strawberries today

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The wild strawberries are ripe.  Little splashes of red winking at us as Jasmine and I wandered on our walk today.

I used to pick wild strawberries and make jam.  It took hours to pick enough  to make even a few jars of jam and it was a labour of love for Mark who appreciated the effort and loved the jam. There was time.  Time to spend long afternoons picking wild strawberries, saskatoons, blueberries and after a hike up to the abandoned mine on the mountainside, prized huckleberries.

There was time.  In Hazelton we had two television stations…..on a good day.  Letters and updates – contact with friends and family came by way of letters in Box 84, South Hazelton. If we were home to answer the phone we did and if we weren’t home the phone just rang and rang. There were no voicemail messages, no robo calls, no text messages. Term papers were typed on a manual typewriter. There were no ear buds keeping us plugged in and it was just the quiet;  the sounds of the river, the birds and the occasional bear crashing through the woods in search of the same berries I was after.

Now my  phone is in my pocket on my walks and listen to CNN on my bluetooth hearing aids as I walk .  I snap pics of Jasmine just to text to Mark as he is at work.  I watch television shows chosen from hundreds of channels and movies on demand. Work follows me home with laptops and cell phones and doesn’t end with an 8 hour day.

Today my heart hurts because someone I knew only from television and books took his life.  We’ve become interconnected with strangers in intimate ways sharing dreams and sorrow in ways I never could have imagined all those years ago.

Today I am a bit scared at being called back for a second more intense MRI with all that can mean again in ways I never could have imagined all those years ago.

Today I feel frustration, helplessness and anger watching the shit-show the selfish, spoiled child running the USA is spreading around our world in ways I never could have imagined all those years ago.

I’m not saying it used to be a better place all those years ago, but there was time to pick wild strawberries.