Friday, February 27, 2009

135 wooshes per minute.

For those non-facebookers who check the blog every morning to see if baby has arrived... no it hasn't. But we got to practice for a couple of hours in the night.

Listen to this glorious wooshing. I think 135 bpm indicates boy. Girls are usually closer to 160 if I remember correctly. We should know for sure in the next couple of days.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blood Sisters

Yet another written composition to clutter your mind with...

This piece has never felt finished to me. It needed a lot more research and substance but this is all I could do in the time span we had in class. Though the story line needs more substance, I'm quite pleased with the plot. I think it would make a great movie.

***Note to my sister Diana - Any names that appear to represent real people is purely coincidental. ***

Blood Sisters
I remember feeling sick that Monday morning when I woke up, but I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower. There was no way I could afford not to go to work that day. I stood in the stream of hot water until it started to run cold, hoping the pelting droplets could somehow wash away the nausea and emptiness I felt.

I arrived at the office and dove right into work. Sandy brought me a cup of coffee and perched on the edge of my desk. “You look like crap, Laurie. Did you have a rough weekend?”

“Yeah, John was in town. He came to pick Jeremy up for Spring Break.”

“Well, at least he’s not a deadbeat Dad.”

“I wish he was. I know that all ten-year-old boys deserve to have a relationship with their Dad, but I always feel so rejected and abandoned when he drives off with that asshole.”

Sandy laughed as she turned to walk out the door, “Before you know it, he’ll be home and you’ll be whining because you didn’t take advantage of your week of freedom.”

I clasped the warm cup in both hands, thankful that Sandy was thoughtful enough to bring it to me, and even more thankful that she chose to leave me alone with it. I liked her well enough, but I didn’t feel up to dealing with her bubbly personality that morning.

As tears ran down my face, I stared at the phone, hoping it wouldn’t ring; knowing eventually it would, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just stared blankly ahead wondering how I got myself into this mess.

The first time I laid eyes on John, my propensity for bikes and bikers filled me with lust and a yearning for excitement and adventure. Unable to speak, I just grabbed Diane’s arm and nodded in his direction, making a throaty noise. I couldn’t take my eyes off him and his denim covered butt that showed above his leather chaps, as he climbed off his Harley outside of Becker’s Bar and Grill.

Diane just rolled her eyes at me over her beer when I announced, “One day I’m gonna have my own bike and my own hunka leather-clad man like that.” We had gone to Becker’s to celebrate us both turning nineteen. She, being two-and-a-half weeks older than me, had had to wait until my birthday before we could hit the bars to affirm that we were now considered adults.

Since fifth grade, Diane and I had shared just about everything: secrets, clothes, boyfriend stories, homework. She even called my mother “Mom,” since she had lived in foster homes most of her life. My fascination for motorbikes and stereotypical bad-boys was the one thing Diane never did understand about me. Though she didn’t understand it, she stood by me as I got myself into a few messes with guys over the years.

We were in the seventh grade when Diane said, “I wish you were my sister; then I’d know you’ll always be there for me. I don’t have anyone else I trust. Except maybe your mom. I love your mom. But of course if you were my sister, she’d be my mom too.”

“Let’s do it.” I responded.


“Let’s become blood sisters. Y’know, where we cut ourselves and share our blood.”

We gathered up the materials we thought we’d need: an exacto knife, bandages, rubbing alcohol, gauze and a mountain of courage. We decided to do it outside on the lawn so we wouldn’t make a mess in the house.

After soaking my hand with an alcohol-covered gauze pad about five times (more as a means to build courage than to actually disinfect the skin) I made the first cut - a gash across my left palm. I thought I was going to throw up as I watched Diane make a similar cut along her right palm while blood oozed from my hand and onto the grass. As soon as blood was running from Diane’s cut, we clasped our hands together and intertwined our fingers. We held each other’s hand and walked around the block, blood and tears both dripping every few steps, making vows up as we went along.

“Diane, I promise to be your sister forever.”

“Laurie, I will do anything for you. Anything at all.”

“I will do anything and everything to defend you.”

“I will be your best friend until we are dead.”

“I will kill, if I have to, to support you.”

“Me too, Laurie.”

From that day on, we have been blood sisters. We have renewed those vows a number of times over the years, but without the mingling of blood ritual.

We had been hanging out at Becker’s for nearly a year the first time John asked me to take a ride with him. It was more like a command; but it was my chance to ride with a real man, so I jumped at it. Diane begged me not to get involved with him and I should have listened, but the pull of excitement was strong and I was drawn to him and his lifestyle.

“He’ll only hurt you. You’ve seen him screwing around with different women. You know he doesn’t take you serious. You are just a hot young chick for him to parade around on his bike.” I knew she was right, but it wasn’t like I was looking for a husband or anything. I just wanted to have a little fun. In a perverse way, I sort of liked being the submissive little trophy. A decade later, it sickened me to think about it.

During the next months, while I was riding and drinking with the bikers, Diane was being drawn into the drug scene. One day she confided in me, “It breaks my heart to see you spend so much time with John. The drugs help to take the edge of the loneliness I feel.”
“Oh, Diane, no matter where life takes us, you will always be my bestest friend. I will never abandon you. Not for John; not for anyone.”

I was terrified the first time I got called to the emergency room because she had overdosed on God knows what. We cried together and both swore off drugs for the rest of our life. But within hours of being released from the hospital, she was out looking for another hit. Over the years there have been many trips to the hospital.

Addiction is a powerful thing, and it’s hard to watch it destroy the life of someone you love. The last couple of years, I watched Diane’s body weight plummet and her mind degenerate into state of confusion. She would never have called herself a prostitute, but she often told me she had traded sex for drugs or to pay off debts.

About two years ago, Diane kept complaining of stomach pains and constant fatigue. After a month or so, she showed up at my door one morning just before I left for work.

“My God, Diane. What’s wrong?” I hardly recognized her. She was a rack of bones and her skin was pallor, almost yellow. She was so weak she could hardly walk or talk.

“I dunno. Maybe it’s food poisoning.” Diane gasped for breath a couple of times. “I can’t stop throwing up. Can I just sleep here today while you’re at work?”

“Forget work. Get in my car, you are going to the hospital.” She didn’t have the strength to argue with me.

Tests showed that Diane had contracted Hepatitis C; probably through needle use, but it could have been from some forgotten sex partner. The disease had already gone beyond the acute stage and was categorized as chronic.

The interferon alpha injections she received several times a week caused her to live with constant flu-like symptoms. She suffered off and on from depression, especially when it was nearing the time for her biannual liver tests and ultrasounds. She would call saying, “Laurie, it’s just not fair. I hate doctors. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” I did what I could to cheer her up. Often, I would have her over for a sleepover, like the old days. We would get out sleeping bags and popcorn and lay awake all night talking. We reminisced the good times and bad, and made up extravagant dreams for the future.

Diane’s addiction was drugs. Mine had been John and his lifestyle. I remember telling her, “If only you’d take up riding, you wouldn’t need the drugs. The adrenaline rush that comes with strapping on the leathers and flying down the highway at 100 miles an hour with your hair whipping in the wind is indescribable.” The surge of power I felt when a crowd of people parted to let a group of bikers through was intoxicating. When the other guys smiled and nodded their approval as John passed by with me on his arm, I was encouraged to continue this lifestyle, even when John started doing things I couldn’t approve of.

When he let some other guy take the rap after a stabbing incident in a bar, I was furious with him. “Your selfishness disgusts me. Who do…” My response was cut short as his fist connected with my lips. My flesh made a popping sound as my front teeth went through the skin and blood exploded all over the two of us.

“Sometimes you gotta let someone else take the fall so you can move on in life,” he flippantly said to me, as if letting someone else spend time in jail for his crime was some minor thing like stealing a cookie and letting your little brother be sent to his room for it.

He turned and walked away from me. Almost as an afterthought, he looked back at me with scorn and spewed, “Don’t ever question my actions again.”

I excused his hitting me, foolishly thinking that I probably deserved it for provoking him. After that incident of seeing him stab someone and not feel any remorse for it, and worse, take pleasure in the fact someone else took the blame, I began to worry about the handgun he always packed under the seat in the truck.

“Why don’t you keep it locked in the closet? I’d feel safer.” I suggested one day just after Jeremy was born. I reasoned that if he had to drive home to get the gun, he would probably think twice about using it, should the occasion arise.

“Listen bitch, when you’re with me, you’re safe. I can take care of things; the gun is just there for insurance, should I need it. So don’t you be worrying your pretty little head about things that you don’t need to.”

Of course, nagging at him would get me nowhere except a trip to the emergency room with a broken nose, so I just kept my mouth shut. As Jeremy got older, I made sure he knew it was there and educated him on the dangers of guns.

When our relationship was falling apart, Diane was always my rock of support; she would hold me and try to comfort me when I knew John was out with other women. It was she who would dress my wounds after he beat the crap out of me. Once, she took a baseball bat to his truck after I begged her and made her promise not to go to the cops after a particularly bad beating.
“That bastard is lucky I didn’t see him. I would’ve killed him.” I knew she would have, and it scared me. That was the final straw that convinced me to leave John and clean up, get a job and start supporting my two-year-old son and myself.

I have often told John that Jeremy and I would survive just fine should he choose to drop off the face of the earth. He always made his monthly support payments, not so much for our benefit, but because it made him feel in control. This past weekend, when I packed Jeremy’s suitcase to John’s truck while he was upstairs looking at a science project, he yelled, “I don’t need your help, bitch. I’ve been taking care of things for years.” I just shrugged him off and didn’t even give him the satisfaction of an argument.

The little things like that have reassured me I made the right choice to be a single parent.

It seemed the more I got on track with my life, the more Diane began to lose a grip on reality. Soon it was me holding Diane and nursing her while she suffered through the effects of drugs. She owed a lot of people a lot of money and often came to me in the middle of the night fearing for her life. Sometimes, I didn’t know whether it was just a drug hallucination or if there was, in fact, someone after her. Either way, she was my blood sister and I was there for her, just as she had been for me so many times. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done for her.

RRIINGG! The phone startled me so badly, I had to muffle a scream. It was my mother, sobbing hysterically. “L-Laurie, come home. I c-can’t tell you over the phone. Just… just hurry, hurry home.”

“Mom. What? What is it? Mom, has John done something?”

“Just come home, baby. It… it’s Diane.” My eyes went immediately to the scar across my left palm. My voice caught in my throat and I was unable to say anything. Mom broke the silence, “Actually, don’t go home.” She blew her nose. “Meet me at Diane’s house. I…I…I’ll head there now.”

My shaking hand dropped the receiver to the desk. I wondered what the future held. I longed for a chance to start over again at our nineteenth birthday. Numbly, I left my office and got into my car.

The drive to Diane’s house only took about eight minutes. Somehow, I was unprepared for the number of emergency vehicles in the driveway. There were four police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance. As I was half running up the walkway, I was met by the paramedics wheeling out a gurney with Diane’s body covered in a sheet. It was too much and my knees gave out under me.
My mom ran out and knelt beside me, “She’s dead, Laurie. They had found her slouched over on her couch with a single bullet hole through her temple. She had been holding the teddy bear Jeremy had given her for Christmas a couple of years ago.”

Mickey, her most regular drug dealer, was the one who had called the cops. He said he had come to “pay a visit” and found her that way.

Because I was the nearest thing to a relative that Diane had, I was able to ride in the ambulance to the hospital with her. At the hospital the police accompanied me to the mourning room and proceeded to bombard me with questions.

“Who were her friends?”

“Me. Pretty much, just me. She had gone way downhill this past year or two.”

The impact of the situation, and the truth of the statement I had just made, hit me like a ton of bricks. I screamed and punched the wall beside me. The police officer put his arm across my shoulders.

“I know it’s tough. Take your time.” His arm brought me comfort, although even at the time, I knew it was there more as a restraining measure than for solace.

He gave me a minute to pull myself together before asking, “Who were her enemies?”

I inhaled a deep jerky breath. “She owed a lot of dealers money. Mickey the most. He used to rape her as interest on her loans. She hated him, but she needed him. He was pretty much the only one who would still supply her.”

“Anyone else?”

“Dave. Her ex. He really resented having to pay her alimony… they were only married for three months. About five years ago. It was one of her longest clean streaks –six months. She met him at a grocery store of all places. They dated for about three weeks and took off to Vegas for the weekend and came home married. It wasn’t long before she was back into drugs and wasting all his money. He filed for divorce.

“She wasn’t working when they married, and didn’t hold a job during the short relationship. The judge deemed that Dave knew she would be dependent on him, and ordered him to pay her monthly support. He hated that.”

“Was there anyone else who might have wished her dead, or even just been angry with her?”

“Not really, other than dealers. Maybe John.”

“Who’s John?”

“My ex.”

“Your ex?”

“Yeah. They have hated each other forever. I think it started out as a jealousy thing. Fighting for my attention, way back when. Diane and I have always been extremely close. Neither one of them liked to share me or feel second best.”

“Were you lovers?”

“Me and John? I told you we were married.”

“No. You and Diane.”

“Fuck you. We were best friends. Sisters really. Blood sisters. For twenty four years.” Subconsciously, I ran my right index finger along the scar on my left hand.

“Sorry to offend you. I have to ask. I know this is tough for you. Do you know when she last saw any of these men?”

“I don’t think she has seen Dave for weeks. Possibly months. He just deposited her money in her account each month. She saw Mickey a few times a week. He was her dealer. You know the scene.”

“And John?”

“He was at her house this weekend. He got to town on Friday, to pick up our son for Spring Break. Diane was having a rough day that day. She was an addict y’know.”

“Yeah, I’ve gathered that.”

“I had Jeremy, that’s our son, over at her house with me. I was expecting John, so I had left a note. He was furious that he had to go to her place to track down his boy, and then go back to my place to pick up Jeremy’s things. Diane and John got into their typical shouting match. He said she was a waste of skin and for two cents he’d kill her. I don’t know that he meant it. Maybe.”

They drilled me on whether or not I thought Diane was suicidal. That was a pretty stupid question, even though she did suffer from depression with her hepatitis and drug problems. It didn’t take much of a detective to realize it was pretty obvious that she didn’t shoot herself in the head; there was no weapon at the scene. Mickey wouldn’t have been stupid enough to take a gun that had been used to kill someone, if it wasn’t him that did it.

The questioning lasted for about forty minutes before I was allowed to leave. The cop offered to drive me back to the scene to get my car, but I asked him to drop me at Mom’s. I’d have her go get my vehicle; I didn’t want to go near the house, the thought of it made me nauseous.

I spent that night at Mom’s place; I didn’t want to be alone. That evening as I sat on her sofa just staring out the window, she said, “Why don’t you call John. Let him know what happened.”

“No, Mom. John is the last person I want to speak to right now. He’ll find out soon enough. I’m sure the cops will want to question him; he did hate her. He was still in town last night when it happened.”

Mom raised her right eyebrow in a way that always gave away when she was thinking something she didn’t want you to know about. She never said anything, but I knew what she was thinking.
She confirmed it when she said, “It really bothers me to have Jeremy go off with him like that.” I didn’t respond verbally; I just nodded and then cried myself to sleep on the sofa.

The following weekend when John brought Jeremy back, his dad informed him the police wanted to talk to him. He voluntarily went without hesitation to the station for questioning.

The coroner’s report had concluded that the gun used in Diane’s death was a Ruger single action .22-calibre pistol – the kind that John had admitted had been under his truck seat for fifteen years. When he was unable to produce his gun, he was placed high on the suspect list, but since they had no hard evidence against him, they had to let him go.

After leaving the station, he went directly to my house and pounded on my door. “What the hell did you tell the cops?” he demanded.

“I only answered their questions. Get off my property you freaking lunatic, or I’ll call them to come get you.”

Three weeks went by without the police coming up with anything. I suspected they weren’t putting any effort into the investigation because Diane was a drug addict with no family. A breakthrough came when the landlady was cleaning up the yard at the end of the month to prepare it for new renters. She found a handgun. It was registered to John.

He was arrested and detained without bail until the hearing. I sat in the courtroom for the entire trial and took my turn on the witness stand. The lawyers asked me a lot of the same questions the cops had asked me at the hospital that day. I was asked to recall times when John and Diane had fought.

“The first time I remember them fighting was a couple of weeks after John and I started seeing each other. John showed up at my door unplanned, expecting to pick me up, but Diane and I were just heading out to catch a movie.”

I recalled their argument.

“You can’t just waltz in any time you like and expect everyone to drop everything.” Diane snapped at him. “She already has plans for the evening.” I looked from one to the other. I felt quite torn. I wanted to spend the time with Diane but at the same time, I was afraid that John wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me if I didn’t bend to his wishes. How na├»ve of me not to see right through him the way Diane did.

“I’m sorry John. I’ll be home by 9:30. Come get me then?”

“I’ll see what happens.” He looked directly at Diane, but spoke to me, “Make sure you are alone.”

I didn’t think I’d see him again, but his bike was sitting in my driveway when I got home. It was as if the challenge of getting me away from Diane is what kept him coming to me. I came to realize that, over the years. I am sure that is the only reason he married me in the first place – he had no desire to be tied down, or remain faithful to one woman. He just took it as a challenge, and I foolishly played into his game.

I told the court about the time Diane threw a beer bottle at John. “He still has a scar above his left ear.” I explained. “At the time John never reacted physically to her. He just told her to watch her back.”

It was exhausting recalling all the things that have taken place and I was never more relieved than to hear the words, “No further questions.”

Even Jeremy had to take the stand against his father. I didn’t like the fact that a ten-year-old had to go through an ordeal like that, but he was a mature kid, I knew he’d deal with it. He was shielded from most of the trial, and was only present in the courtroom for his time of questioning. When asked about their activities that first weekend of spring break, Jeremy replied, “We had a fun weekend. We slept at Granny and Grampy’s house. I don’t see them very much, mostly only if Dad’s in town. We went four-by-fouring on Saturday. Sunday night was cool, Grampy took me to play laser tag.”

“Did your dad play laser tag with you?”

“Nope. He said Grampy and I could have some bonding time. He went out to meet some friends.”

The lawyer probed, “Do you know who he went with? Did you see anyone with him?”

“Nope. I don’t know his friends. Mom says they’re scary.” Jeremy nervously glanced in my direction. I forced myself to flash him a big grin, so he’d know I thought he was doing a great job.
The whole ordeal made my heart ache with loneliness, missing Diane. But I knew she was better off; life had become too difficult for her to bear. She didn’t want to live any more.

I brushed off the guilt I felt. I had been true to my word; honouring the vow we made so many years ago to support and aid each other through anything. As long as I live, I will never forget the feel of the thumb-cock, the sound of firing, or the pungent smell of gunpowder mixed with blood.

John was the one who taught me well that sometimes you gotta let someone else take the fall so you can move on with life. And moving on was exactly what I planned to do. I’ll take with me the memory of Diane, that last hug goodbye, and our final elaborate plan of support: me helping Diane out of the misery of life, and she taking the misery of John from my life.

When the verdict came in as “guilty,” I didn’t even look at John. I heard him cursing at me as I turned and walked resolutely out of the courtroom and into the sunshine. The trees around me were in full bloom, lush and green, full of life. Life pumped through my veins in blood. Mine and Diane’s.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

X = 169

Our first grandchild is the first for the Cross clan too and will also be the first great grandchild on the DeBalinhard side, and the first great-great for the Cuttings. This is exciting all around. However in the Ziemer family, the now overdue child, is also eagerly anticipated even though as a great grandchild it comes in at number ... number... hmmm... how many are there?

It's questions like this that I lay and contemplate at 4:45 when the rest of the world sleeps peacefully.

My curiousity got the best of me the other morning so I pulled the laptop into bed with me and typed our family into an Excel spreadsheet and let Microsoft do the math.

If I'm not mistaken, Jade and Jenny are the only women in the family who are with child. Baby X will be great number 59. And when Jenny and Andrew's bundle of joy arrives later this summer the grand total of offspring belonging to Ernie and Grace, including spouses, will be 170.

One hundred and seventy kids!! We could start our own Mafia or something.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I demand a refund!

It's tax time. I've wasted most of today trying to file my taxes with the Not-so-QuickTax software. Every year I buy QuickTax standard and it's a simple matter of plunking in some numbers and voila! the government owes me money back.

Things are a little more complicated this year. I got part way through entering stuff and realized that Standard QuickTax was not going to cut it for a year when you buy and sell a rental house, then turn your residence into a partial rental house, get a government grant, and you carry over disability amounts from an adult dependant. And what to do with the capital losses left over from selling the 100 acres?

With a few magic clicks of the mouse and disclosure of my Visa number I upgraded to QuickTax Platinum. I'm still just as lost - but thirty one dollars broker.

So now it's decision time: Do I just file with whatever way gives me the biggest refund. Do I throw in the towel and hire an accountant. Do I just pretend the whole rental house thing never happened and hold my breath for seven years hoping that I don't get audited.

Deep breath... and hold....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What's that noise?

Once again, for your reading pleasure, a story written as an assignment for school. The guidelines for writing were to think of a real life situation then fabricate a story around it. About 10 percent (maybe less) of this is fact from a true story in my life.

What’s That Noise?

My back is killing me. I have to pee so bad that pains are shooting across my belly. The baby’s gentle breathing is holding a steady rhythm twice the speed of my snoring husband lying next to me. Well, he isn’t exactly lying next to me. Rather we are entwined together and sort of doubled over to fit into the back of our little compact car with the back seat folded down.


The dreadful noise that has kept me awake all night seems quieter now, somehow muffled, as darkness begins to give way to the sun that will soon be rising over Tunkwa Lake. It’s funny how even the tiniest bit of light chases away fears and brings comfort. Still, the sliver of light is not strong enough to spark the bravery I need to actually get out of the car.

Through the condensation on the car window I can see the tent with its door still unzipped and flapping in the breeze. As the hump in the seat digs into my back, I see the foam mattress inside the tent lying there teasing me with thoughts of a soft comfy sleeping pad.

It is completely my fault that we are in this position, but I am unwilling to take the blame, so I lay here cursing the male primal instinct that has made my husband insist we take our baby son camping “so he can learn to be a real man.”

I have to admit that the area is beautiful. The 700-acre man-made lake is on the Thompson Plateau, half way between Savona and Logan Lake. The mix of open range and pine trees creates an environment that satisfies an outdoorsman like my husband while not totally alienating a city wimp like me.

The daytime vision of serenity had done nothing to console my reeling mind the previous evening while we lay in the pitch-black darkness of the tent. It must have been nearly midnight when we put out the campfire and snuggled into bed. It all felt so romantic: sitting under the stars, warming by the fire, enjoying nature and feeling at peace with the world. (The bottle of wine enhanced all this, I’m sure.)

We had been in bed just long enough for the chill to start to leave my frozen butt and sleep begin to take over my thoughts.


“What’s that?” I inquire of my husband, whom I expect to know everything. He is, after all, the experienced camper.

“I don’t have a friggin’ clue.” His reply only increases my fear.

The bizarre noise apparently means nothing to him, and his breathing becomes heavy and relaxed, competing with the sounds permeating the tent from outside. My heart, meanwhile, is beating hard and fast in my ears; I am holding a glimmer of hope that it will actually drown out the noise that is piercing the darkness. It is like nothing I have ever heard before: kind of a deep roar, it almost sounds like the terror of something being tortured. It is a sound I can easily imagine coming from the depths of hell. There are occasional moments of silence but for the most part the sound is unabated. I cannot hear any other campers moving about. Surely someone out there packs a gun. Someone must know what it is and be able to save us all.

I imagine every possible scenario. I know there are cougars in the area; I have never seen or heard one but I don’t think this is the type of noise they would make.

Guilt washes over me and mixes in with my fear. Why did I bring my helpless little baby into the woods to sleep with just a thin piece of fabric protecting him from predators?

I can visualize the psycho “Bushman of the Shuswap” roaming around our campsite. The escaped criminal has outwitted police for a couple of years now and remains on the loose in the area, living off food and clothing taken from vacated homes and cabins. But he is living in hiding; he will act in silence, I try to console myself. On further thought, I am sure there is no way a human being, psychotic or not, can make that noise.

I know Okanagan Lake has the legend of Ogopogo, a large sea creature, living in the water. I can’t recall any such stories from the Kamloops area. I don’t believe in such things. Do I?

I do know one thing. I will not spend one more minute in this flimsy little tent. I shake my husband. “Hon, can we sleep in the car?”

“What the…?”

“I’m scared. I’ll never sleep out here with all that noise,” I confess. At least the car will provide a metal barrier between us and whatever lurks out there in the darkness. It should also help to muffle those excruciating sounds.

Every marriage has defining moments when you know “this is why I married that person.” As my husband packs up all the bedding and the diaper bag and heads into the darkness towards the car, I have one of those moments. But I have no time to dwell on it. I scoop up the baby and, in what seems like one leap, I am in the car.

The rest of night is restless and I have never been so glad to see a day dawning. The noise can still be heard but is far less frequent and quieter, almost hoarse. I can hear the chugging of a motor as a fisherman pulls on the cord to start his boat out on the water. I take comfort in the fact that someone else is up and about and has not been killed and eaten.

The sounds and events of the night are not so prevalent in my mind now; I am more consumed with the fact that I have to pee so badly. As I lay here, I wish I had been brave enough to get up a half hour earlier while it was still totally dark. I could have taken half a step away from the car and squatted on the ground, but now it is too light out. The sound of wood being chopped in the distance tells me that people have started to awaken.

I spy the baby’s empty bottle lying next to him on the front seat… could I use it as a bedpan? We brought lots of them along. I can just throw it away. No, what if my husband wakes up and thinks it is apple juice for the baby. I can’t risk it. Besides, I am sure my bladder is housing a lot more than eight ounces anyway.

I inhale deeply and my breath catches in my throat as I crawl out of the car and pray all the way to the outhouse.


It is a good thing I am already sitting, and my pants are down. I can tell it is coming from not too far behind me. My mind is racing. How am I going to get back to the car, now? I certainly won’t be leaving the outhouse until someone comes to the door. I refuse to be attacked alone.

Mustering all my courage, I climb up on the toilet seat and peer out the vent hole at the back.

There, about 100 feet away, is a calf that has strayed from a herd of cattle that wanders the open range. It is stuck in a small ravine and cannot climb out. It has been bawling hopelessly for its mother. The hours of constant mooing have caused it to nearly lose its voice; it is drooling and frothing at the mouth. The sight, on a normal day, would have brought tears of pity to my eyes. This morning, after the night of terror I have spent at the hands of a cow, and a baby one at that, all I feel as I peek out this little hole in the outhouse is anger and humiliation.

On my way back to the campsite, I pass a couple of men who are headed to the calf’s rescue.

I crawl into the tent; I know I have about 2 hours to sleep before the baby and my husband wake up. Sleep comes fast and I have pleasant dreams of retribution: I am grilling a Grade A steak on the open campfire…

Friday, February 20, 2009

Granny Adula

I like words and word games but I tend to use just everyday language understood by the average third grader.

I learned a new word in the last few days. It is entirely possible that I am the only person in the western world who never knew the word doula.

  • doula (doo-luh) noun. 1975–80; <>
  • The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

If you are reading this, you quite likely are aware that my first grandchild is due any day now and my son and I will both be attending the birth of this wee precious gem. I, because I am honoured and thrilled to be a support to my daughter-in-law and witness the miracle of life. He, because his mother said so. (He's actually excited too. And once it over with he'll feel just as amazed and honoured as I.)

Jade's very good friend, Crystal, is also due with her first child this weekend. And Crystal, like Jade, does not have a mom so I'm always asking how she's doing and checking that she is getting everything in order.

A couple of months ago I was asking about Crystal's prenatal classes and if Neil (baby's daddy) was attending the birth.

Jade's response was, "Neil will be in the room, but Adula will be the coach."

Never having heard the word doula, I just assumed Adula was an aunt, or foster mom, or neighbour or something and I didn't question further. Hey. How was I to know. In my defense, this didn't even become an English word until the late 70's or 80's so was not in widespread use by 1986 when I gave birth for my final time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The shoemaker's last letter.

As I said, I am taking a creative writing course. This has prompted me to pull out some of the things I had to write during my course at the college a few years ago. I thought I'd randomly share some with you.

In one class, we were instructed to write a "last letter" and then we each were given a character. My character was a shoemaker.

And so, here is The Shoemaker's Last Letter:

As I sit here in my workshop for the last time, the familiar smells of leather and glue comfort me. Memories flood my mind. My first pair of shoes: small black Mary Janes, size 7, for a Shirley Temple-like little flower girl.

Back in the early days, getting a new pair of shoes was a cherished occasion for most people. The look of joy on the customer’s face and the pride with which they donned my masterpiece creations made my hard work and meticulous attention to detail all worthwhile.

Those days are gone. Commercialism and materialism have consumed our nation. No longer do people appreciate the craftsmanship of well-constructed footwear. No longer are people willing to re-sole a favourite pair of shoes. No longer will people replace an eyelet on a great pair of boots. These days, shoes become disposable as soon as the laces get dirty.

People think nothing of buying synthetic footwear, made in Pakistan by 8-year-olds in a factory assembly line. There is no longer respect for the masters of the trade like myself. Making shoes has been my life. I have worked into the night designing and constructing the perfect pair of shoes for a cherished client. There are no elves here in this workshop. It’s been all by the sweat of my brow. Yet my dedication and competency have come to mean nothing.

On weekends I sit on the park bench watching feet pass by. I shake my head in bewilderment. Why are people so much like sheep, just following the crowd in these pathetic trends? Do they really like that shoddily made crap they buy in big box retail outlets? Do people care nothing for comfort and quality anymore? What on earth would possess someone to wear those hideous toe-pinching, arch cramping styles of the day?

Surely humans have more brains than to pay those exorbitant prices for uncomfortable vinyl just because the box is plastered with the face of the likes of Michael Jordan. He, who sits in his extravagant mansion not giving a shit about the likes of me. Me, who sits in a tiny workshop working the night away and wondering when I’ll make the next sale. Neither do they care for the little peons who are deep in debt trying to keep up with the latest flighty fad that will be disposed of in three months.

I have been brushed off by a society bent on self-destruction in spite of themselves. I can no longer bear the condescending looks, or worse, the look of indifference from people when they hear me say with pride, “I am a shoemaker.”

Yes, my usefulness here on this earth is over. So I say, “Goodbye cruel world.” I’ll just lace up my latest pair of comfortable custom boots, fasten this strap of leather firmly about my neck, and step off the edge of my faithful sewing machine – my only trusted ally, right to the end.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'm SAD. And it's making me bitchy.

Being gullible is probably one of my biggest fears in life. Getting sucked in by gimmicks and gadgets, and movements and causes is not something I fall easily into. As a result, I'm kind of a skeptic and treat anything new as suspect until it proves itself worthy.

Take for example the Go Lite - an alleged natural relief for winter blues, low energy and sleep problems.

I bought one about four years ago. It's still new. I haven't even given it a chance to prove itself. But there are people who swear by it so I think I'll give it a chance this year. I've been suffering a bit from SAD, I think. That's Seasonal Affective Disorder. And once again that's something I'm a bit skeptical about - it seems there's a disorder for every mood and emotion.

But I hate winter and by February I always have had just about all I can take. I think perhaps this year is a bit worse because I've been so cold all the time since I've started taking tamoxifen. (Where or where, I wonder, are the promised hot flashes?)

Some years I have found it helpful to sign up for a couple hundred tanning minutes to "soak up some c-cells" as I used to affectionately refer to it. However, since my body is already fighting cancer cells, I think it's probably best not to encourage their growth by soaking more up.

I just want little Baby X to be born. I think that will be the perfect little ray of sunshine that I need to perk me up.

Friday, February 13, 2009

You get what you get.

I have always loved school and learning. I essentially homeschooled myself in grade three. In grade four we moved to civilization and I was able to attend a real school. Ahhh! I felt like I'd gone to heaven. Except that I couldn't go on Saturdays. I was sorely disappointed that real school was limited to five days a week.

Yes, I loved school, but school was not a social thing for me. I had a few friends. I didn't want more. I discovered early that I really am not a people person.

I loved learning. But only while the learning came easily to me. I had no intention of working to attain knowledge. I rarely remember doing homework. In high school my teachers wanted me to take the "enriched courses" - classes with a little more advanced substance to them. I used the excuse that none of my friends were all that smart and I wanted to be in the regular classes with my friends. I think probably the truth was, I knew I'd have to work at learning in an advanced class and I wanted no part of working at learning. Wasn't learning supposed to be fun?

As a result, I was really quite bored in my classes. And bored children do not attend classes. I was not a bad kid, but I'd be willing to bet that I skipped more classes in high school than even the most delinquent child. But because I still managed to pull off nothing less than B's, most of my teachers just ignored the fact that I missed 17 out of 51 days in one reporting period of grade 10. That's one in three.

I quit school after grade 10. I got married and made babies shortly thereafter.

After seventeen years of being a stay-at-home mom I decided maybe school wasn't so bad, and I headed back to adult education and challenged myself to graduate before my first child. I beat her by 48 hours! Yay mommy! This wasn't a GED - I actually took math and English and all that stuff. And I liked it.

After graduating I entered the workforce. The paycheque was nice but it didn't give the satisfaction and enjoyment I got from learning. Two years later I went to college and took and graphics and writing program. I loved it. Taking some of the elective classes online and through distance ed fit my schedule better because I wanted to remain working and being mom.

After two years I got to walk down the aisle and receive a diploma. *Confession time* I didn't actually graduate. I never finished the last class I needed for credits.

It wasn't long after college that I began to miss "fun learning." I signed up for a number of consecutive Photoshop classes online. I loved them. But then moved on.

I decided it would be fun to learn to paint or draw or do something more hands on. I went to the Artist's Co-op and signed up for whatever class fit my schedule. That turned out to be watercolour. Again, I loved it. I took three "semesters" of it and decided to take a break.

That brings us to the here and now. And I'm bored. Well, I'm not really bored. I don't get bored. I could do nothing and be quite happy in my own little bubble of thoughts. But I miss learning. So I signed up for an online creative writing class. It's not what I expected but I'd imagine I'll stick with it till it gets hard.

Then what's next? I'm running out of easy learning options.

Blogging is weird. I had no intention of telling you any of this except that I signed up for a creative writing class. And once I paid and got logged in, I realized the class is nothing like I thought it was going to be. But somehow once I hit "create new post" my fingers just run away with the story and you get what you get.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tic Tac Toe ... 3 in a row

This is what morning coffee looks like on Sanderson Road.
.... we facebook each other if we need to talk.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Purging the 'puter desk.

Three and a half years ago, when we moved into this house, Alb built me a great custom computer desk. There's cupboard to house my laser printer, a wide roll out shelf for keyboard/tablet/mouse and more, shelving for various paper, a cupboard for CDs and DVDs, built in lighting and three large drawers.

I love the drawers, but the roll-out glides were never strong enough for the large sized drawers and it was difficult to open and close them. Thus, they were perma-open about 6 inches each and I'd just cram stuff in the narrow opening with the full intention of organizing it all "some day."

Yesterday he replaced the glides with a more heavy duty style. Of course he needed the drawers to be empty to do this and so there became a mountain of stuff piled on my living room floor for me to sort through.

Holy crap, I can't believe some of the stuff that has accumulated in 3 years. You would not believe my collection of post-it note pads. I don't even use post-it notes. I have grocery receipts - what could possibly have been my motive for keeping them? I have packages of Inkjet Photo Paper. I've had colour laser printers for at least 5 years. That's long before this desk was even built.

There were pages and pages of projects and lessons from the online Photoshop courses I've taken. Nothing numbered. Nothing organized. If I were to try to use them I'd probably start creating a business card and end up with a digital snowflake or something.

I threw out a leaf bag full of papers and stuff. It was insane.

I gathered all the cords and wires into one box. I have an amazing array of USB cords, power adapters, firewires, phone jacks, high speed insulators, networking cables etc. I kept them all just in case.

I disposed of any empty CD cases with missing disks. Gone are all the driver disks for past computers and components. I discarded my Windows ME disk. My collection of of Norton Antivirus programs was depleted to just the current version.

I was on a de-clutter rampage! And it feels so good to have purged.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


They say the world is running out of cork, a sustainable, renewable resource. That's why so many wines are now stopped with synthetic cork, plastic, and screw tops. Personally, I'm a skeptic, and I believe the switch in capping material has more to do with financial factors.

Synthetic corks are harder to unscrew because they can slip inside the neck of the bottle. This can be frustrating to a weakling like me who's trying to use a dollar store corkscrew. I've been on the hunt for the perfect cork screw for the last couple of years. I got two this past birthday - a fantastic hand held unit from B&K and my husband got me one of those counter top varieties.

Once I figured out how to use the counter top corkscrew, it works pretty slick. It also came with a razor sharp shrink wrap cutter. I find that in recent years fewer and fewer wines come with the little pull tab to remove the shrink cap. Perhaps the world is running out of pull tab trees as well. Or perhaps its a cost-cutting measure.

I opened a bottle of wine with no pull tab the other night. I gave a twist on my cap slitter and the top came off in my hand just as slick as could be... but... There was no cork in the bottle!! What the heck??!!? A closer look made me realize I'd just razed off the top of a metal screw cap. Now that's a sharp cutter - and not-so-sharp bartender.

Consider Yourself Reminded.

Ten years. It's been 10 years today since I was branded with that title that no-one ever wants to wear. That is until you receive it. ...