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Buckle Up Click Here To Comment!

(quite long – buckle up)

Me: OK you two – we need to chat.

Sally: OK.

Sophie: OK.

Me: It has been a long and roller coaster-y year.

Sally: Has it?

Sophie: …

Me: Yes. Lots of ups and downs.

Sally: Remind me …

Me: OK … well, about a year ago, we started planning renovations with Mike and Lisa, so that is good.

Sally: Sure – they are nice.

Me: Yes.

Sophie: … messy, disruptive, noisy …

Me: They put in your heated floor in the new bathroom.

Sophie: Oh, I love them.

Me: Specifically, Mike did that. Thank him when he comes back on Friday.

Sophie: I will refrain from leaving a hairball in his shoes.

Me: That will do. I had SO MUCH FUN designing the spaces with Lisa. I didn’t realize how much fun that would be.

Sally:

Sophie:

Me: Anyway, we’ve been in a global pandemic since March 2020 … that has been stressful. Two years now.

Sally: Is that why humans come into the house wearing muzzles?

Me: Those are masks, not muzzles. But yes. So, a year ago, people thought maybe the pandemic might be over. And we had a pretty ok summer, pandemic-wise.

Sally: …

Sophie: …

Me: In July, Big Dee collapsed on the deck in front of me. Turns out he was really sick.

Sally: I knew he was sick for a while.

Me: Yes, I think you did. … We lost him later in July. It was awful.

Sally: I miss Big Dee.

Sophie: To my surprise, I miss him too.

Me: I miss him so much. I still can’t believe he isn’t here.

Me: I sold my pink Barbie boat and bought a refurbished non-Barbie boat.

Sally: YES! That was awesome.

Me: It is pretty awesome. I named it after Big Dee.

Sophie: You never name anything after me.

Me: Nothing as beautiful as you has happened yet.

Sophie: Oh. Yes, that makes sense.

Me: Moving on … there was some family stuff in the fall – do you remember that?

Sally: When you were out  on the deck in the rain trying to get a cell signal?  A bunch of times?

Me: Yes, that was it. On the “up” side, we got a quick visit from Angela around birthday time, so that was a treat.

Sally: She is nice.

Sophie: She likes me a lot.

Me: Yes, she does. … later on in the fall, we moved upstairs so the kitchen reno could start … that was … interesting …

Sally: Yes! I remember that! 

Sophie: I remember being under a bed for six weeks.

Me: Yes, I’m so sorry about that.

Sophie: There was a huge dog upstairs with big teeth.

Me: Yes. I’m so sorry.

Sally: What happened to Mr. Handsome?

Me: He is living his best life on a farm. He didn’t really fit in here as well as we’d hoped.

Sally: … I guess not … but being the only dog doesn’t really suit me.

Me: I know, sweetheart.

Sophie: Suits me.

Me: I know … and we will return to this subject … moving on … we moved back downstairs in December … and I started to enjoy my new kitchen …

Sally: I like it. It is bigger. There are more high traffic areas for me to sprawl out on while you are cooking.

Me: Yes, I noticed.

Sophie: I like the heated floor.

Me: That is in the bathroom.

Sophie: Best room in the house.

Me: I’m glad you like it … moving on … So, I had planned a big Christmas trip for December after the grades were in. Sally, we were supposed to go on two big Ontario road trips, first to see family in Thornbury, and our friends in K/W including crazy dog RayLynn, then a big dinner with friends in St. Catharines, including your little friend Bella, and then to Strathroy for more family … and maybe a stop in Drumbo … it was going to be great.

Sally: Did we do that trip?

Me: Nope. The pandemic returned with something called Omicron.

Sally: Darn. That sounded like a fun trip.

Me: Friends were going to visit after Christmas and then we were going to do road trip part two to Ottawa for New Years … none of it happened because … Omicron.

Sally: I don’t like pandemic stuff.

Me: Me either … I haven’t seen “my people” for literally months … moving on … my job is a bit weird right now. We are employing “work to rule” strategies to motivate management to negotiate.  That started in December. It keeps escalating … Stressful. 

Sally: …

Sophie: …

Me: The renos aren’t quite finished yet, for 1,000 reasons, and we are living in a partial construction zone. Nothing is stored in its rightful place yet and it is starting to feel quite claustrophobic. To me anyway.

Sally: I hadn’t noticed.

Sophie: Me either other than its a bit of an obstacle course around here.

Me: I know. It is discombobulating.

Sally: Big important word.

Me: Big word, not that important really.

Sally: OK.

Me: There is a war happening that is pretty awful. There is almost always a war happening somewhere. This one is just as horrible, unfair, and shocking as most wars are.

Sally: Is that like a dog fight in the park?

Me: … mmm … yes, sure. But with more dogs than you can count and the fights end in death and destruction.

Sally: OH! that sounds awful and confusing and unnecessary. My “fights” only last about ten heartbeats and I’m just trying to show that I’m strong. No one gets actually hurt.

Me: I know … War is a terrible, stupid choice for resolving differences and many humans are sad and stressed about it.

Sally: I know you are stressed.

Me: Yeah … everything is starting to get more expensive and that is also stressful.

Sophie: Can you still pay the hydro bill for the heated floor?

Me: Yes, so far that is ok.

Sophie: Phew.

Me: So, it has been a long, dark, lonely winter. And as Uncle Gin said the other day, no one is really doing well right now, mental health wise.

Sally: Are you ok?

Me: I’m “ok” but I’m really tired of waves of bad news. And I’m stuck in my personal routine which involves a lot of sitting at the computer. So I could be better. I feel we need … I need … some new energy in the house. It will be spring soon and I don’t want to feel so weighed down.  And, Sally, I think you need a friend.

Sophie: … I don’t think I like where this is going …

Sally: This sounds awesome so far … go on …

Me: So … I think we need … A PUPPY!!!

Sally: Yay … wait, what? What is a puppy?

Sophie: You’ve GOT to be kidding.

Me: Sally, a puppy is a baby doggie that will grow up to be your friend. It’s going to be great. You both have a job to do. You can help me train him! Sophie, you can teach him how to respect cats.

Sophie: … (looks for lawyer’s email address) …

Me: Hang on Sophie, remember how you and Big Dee made friends eventually? This will be even easier than that. We are starting from a blank slate. This puppy has never even met a cat yet.

Sophie: … (dubious) …

Me: You’ll see.

Sally: When the puppy arrives, will you still love me?

Me: Oh, sweetheart – always. You are so patient with me. You’ll need to be patient while we train him. I think you are going to love having a little brother and I’m going to love watching you teach him.

Me and Sally, July 30, 2021

Sally: Okay! Let’s do this!

Sophie: (closes eyes) … Jesus, Mary and Joseph … Can we block off the bathroom with the heated floor so I can get in and he can’t?

Me: No … BUT … you will always be the only pet allowed on the bed with me.

Sophie: … (still dubious) ok … bring it on …

Me: If the weather holds, I’ll be bringing him home tomorrow. Buckle up!

Gus
Me and Gus (March 4, 2022)

Night Drive 1 comment

Setting: Driving home around midnight from vet emergency clinic. Raining. Fog. Window wipers.

Big Dee: You are driving pretty slow.

Me: Yes. I haven’t done a lot of night driving lately – no reason to. And it is raining and misty. And … cataracts.

Big Dee: That is a lot of information.

Me: Sorry – I can’t see perfectly at the moment.

Big Dee: OK.

… window wipers …

Me: How are you feeling?

Big Dee: Tired. Not quite right.

Me: Any pain?

Big Dee: Not as such. Not 100% comfortable.

Me: I’m sorry.

Big Dee: (collar tinkling noise) Good night time window sniffs though.

Me: I’m glad.

… window wipers …

Big Dee: What is a spleen?

Me: Something inside your body that helps make your blood stronger.

Big Dee: Oh. … a good thing then.

Me: Yes. A very good thing.

Big Dee: What is a tumor?

Me: Something that grows inside your body that shouldn’t be there.

Big Dee: Oh … a bad thing then.

Me: Yes, my love. Very bad.

… window wipers …

Big Dee: What will it be like?

Me: I don’t know sweetheart. I don’t know.

Big Dee: I think I know.

Me: Tell me.

Big Dee: I think it is like going for a car ride at night. You can’t see too far ahead, only what is in front of you.

Me: OK.

Big Dee: And every once in a while, the car will stop and there will be new sniffs and places to pee.

Me: Sounds reasonable.

Big Dee: And off lead walks to explore.

Me: Oh I’m so glad! You love those.

Big Dee: You won’t be there, though.

Me: No, no I won’t baby. I’m sorry.

Big Dee: I’ll wait for you at one of the stops. You’ll come.

Me: Yes, I will.

Big Dee: And then you can drive the rest of the way.


… window wipers …


Big Dee: You’ve slowed down again. We’ll never get home at this rate.

Me: Sorry. I really can’t see at all now.

Putting The Blanket Away 1 comment

I was doing a bit of spring cleaning over the weekend, pulling everything out of a closet. At the bottom of a pile of random “stuff” was Freddie’s electric blanket. In the last year or so of her life, I had put this electric blanket on “low” under her bed and she seemed to appreciate it. After she died, I quickly tossed or donated most of her things except one shirt, one little blanket and this electric blanket.

(RIP Freddie, co-pilot and canine companion for 18 years, 7 months. October 2, 1997 to May 26, 2016.)

It was filthy, I remember thinking at the time, and I didn’t have the ability to figure out how to wash or clean an electric blanket. It seemed a near impossible task to me, figuring out how to clean this polar fleece fabric with wires in it. Like being asked to do some complex calculations in my head. I’ll deal with it later, I thought, and I tossed it into the bottom of a closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

So it has sat at the bottom of this particular closet for nigh on two years. As I pulled it out, I noticed the care label, quite clearly displayed, on the “down” side of the blanket. “Machine wash … dry on low”.

Oh. Not that hard, then. It is all clean now, folded and put away properly in the linen cupboard.

What I couldn’t face, I think, was the cessation of what had become a beloved routine. Freddie needed to go outdoors first thing for her business and I would carry her in my arms and set her down gently on the grass or snow. I’d move the electric blanket, a moisture pad (which was just a precaution between her and the electric blanket), and her bed from the bedroom to her spot by the computer. I’d go back out to see if she was ready to come in. She wasn’t capable of getting very far but she was usually enjoying having a sniff around the grass or snow. She might even bark at some smell or some perceived “thing to be barked at”. Maybe my neighbour Jim would come over and pat her as he adored her, too.  I’d come in and I’d get her breakfast ready. Eventually, I’d tuck her into her spot in her bed by the computer and my day could begin.

She went out for outdoor visits several times during the day. Bedtime would come and the routine would run in reverse, with the blanket/moisture pad/bed moving back to the bedroom.

Caring for this elderly creature felt like a sacred duty and it made me oddly happy and serene. It bears mentioning that my relationship of seven years had officially ended Labour Day 2015, after dragging on painfully for too many years. Caring for Freddie was, for me, a nurturing that fed my wounded soul.

Big Dee arrived in my life in late Fall 2015 and, to be honest, he couldn’t figure out why I was keeping this smelly senior around. I think it wounded his pride to know he was, as dog hierarchy goes, inferior to this old girl. In truth, I think it was not a bad idea for him to learn his place. In his mind, I’m sure, he was hoping she’d head off on a long walk into the woods one day and he’d have me all to himself.

I always thought I’d wake up one day and find that she had died in her sleep. That is not what happened. That last weekend, the long weekend in May 2016, she slipped several notches in function, becoming disoriented, seemingly blind, confused. She was no longer herself. It was time, and I had to make that dreaded decision pet owners (owners? parents? stewards? companions?) have to make. It was hard. It was necessary. And I had to be pushed a bit to get it done.

My desk area has changed and a bookcase now stands where her bed was. A night stand has now filled in the spot in the bedroom that used to be hers. Sally has joined the crew now … life moves on. I think the electric blanket was the last piece of unfinished business remaining from that time.  I’ve put it away now. But that won’t stop me from glancing over occasionally, as I’m sitting here at the computer, and remembering her little face looking up at me, wondering if it is time to go out yet.

Winter Transplant 1 comment

Cue, huge intake of breath … and … WHOOSH!

*cough*

That was me, blowing the dust off this blog. It has been a while.

=====

Confession: I love winter.

supermoon

Supermoon over Coby

I love the crispness of the air, the freshness that new snow lends every vista. I love having a vista, of sorts.

I love the challenge: staying warm, balancing system heat with wood heat, the work of shovelling, snow-blowing, stacking, sweeping. God help me, I even like winter driving. That is to say, I’m not put off by it. Bring it on.  A “supermoon” hung over the east sky a few nights ago, as I was piecing my way through a few squalls to get home. Like a huge bauble, dangling just above the horizon.  Gorgeous.

I love the coziness of a fire when the temperature is plunging outside, the sound of a hockey game on the tv as I go about other tasks. The happy riot at the birdfeeders when I’ve just re-filled them.

The eagerness on Big Dee’s face when he can see me going through the steps of getting ready to go outside: boots, scarf, coat, hat, go back inside for something (my phone), come back to the door, go back inside again for something else (treats), open the door, close it again, grab my mitts, open the door, close it again, go back inside for something (coffee) … eventually, we get outside. He has learned patience.

Up here, the silence is extraordinary. I’m not really one to judge, given that my world seems to get more silent, or muffled, every day. Maybe silence isn’t really the word – stillness.

This is my second winter up here on my own, and it certainly came on quickly.  I thought I would have a bit longer to wrap up my outdoor projects … but, no … the shed isn’t finished and the raised beds still stand. Oi.

The plan, for those who are still following along, was not for me to be here on my own. Yet, here I am. It has, in fact, worked out. I want to say something about the journey up here as part of a couple in 2011, the rapid deterioration, the frantic yet dismal attempts at repair, the denouement late summer of 2015. But … what to say? It did NOT work out.  Anger, hurt, blaming – all the old standards.  I did not blow the dust off the blog to re-visit the minutia of the hash we both made of it.

The fact of my life at the moment is that each season up here is a gift. I wouldn’t have moved up here, independently. It doesn’t make a ton of logistical or financial sense. I had to be given the context to step back into a non-urban life. The fact that the context evaporated pretty quickly left me with a choice:  stay by the river or return to the city. Every cell of my being said, unhesitatingly, “stay”.  So I am grateful for the context, if you will, dragging me up the road and depositing me by the river.

The first four seasons on my own were, quite possibly, the happiest I’ve been for so many years. The absence of tension was palpable. I’d come home from the city and just stand on the landing between the kitchen and the living room, looking out over the deck, and marvel at the opportunity I have to re-invent myself. Re-plant, perhaps. A transplant, happy to find herself in a place that restores and nourishes.

Extended Absence Greeting 4 comments

Hey there – remember me? 🙂

So, the last few months of 2009 became a muddy blur during which time writing, and exercising, took a backseat to the following:

  • caring for the lovely Freddie as she recovered from surgery to repair ruptured discs in her spine (neck). My home became a baby-gated, cushioned, modified pet crate for seven weeks. My dog was in pain and I felt helpless. And then, shortly afterwards, broke. So grateful that Freddie’s Other Mom, and the lovely WWBA, were able to be such a supportive part of this adventure. But it did take its toll. Freddie needs to be carried up and down stairs and, at first, needed more, shorter walks. I live up two flights of stairs and my routine was tied more than ever, to Freddie’s requirements. I was exhausted.
  • … and thus got I ill myself with a persistent bronchial infection – several weeks of coughing and hacking and sleeping badly.
  • having my car vandalized, right here in the underground parking lot. Stuff stolen, car damaged. Much time and energy lost over a 10 day period, dealing with this. Not to mention feeling just a wee bit violated.
  • grading 174 really sub-par essay-like business reports in 3.5 weeks. That is a real number, 174. 87 in the first round that had to be done quickly and returned so they could have feedback to complete and hand in the second round. Second round to be graded to the grade submission deadline at the end of term. This activity will suck your brain out through the eye of a needle and will rip your heart out of your chest, tossing it away like last year’s PlayStation. Don’t let anyone tell you that teaching isn’t an emotional pursuit. After teaching plagiarism (how to avoid it, not how to do it) as a topic in class, finding students who persist in the behaviour is like getting smacked up the side of the head with a 2 x 4. I’m not sure I can explain why, it just feels … horrible.  It does get balanced out, of course, by students who really do make incredible progress and there were some really fine moments of this as well. Somehow, though, this term, the amount of grading and the roller coaster ride it took me on just about did me in.
  • ongoing negotiations with management on workload issues (see above) and the looming possibility of a strike that no one wants yet that seems difficult to avoid. Multiple meetings with management over next term’s workload. A workload review by a larger committee. Not much progress. Stress. Self-doubt. Worry.

As you can see, not a lot of writing took place. Furthermore, I actually have found myself daydreaming of the smell of my gym. What I’ve learned is that my mental and emotional health is linked to these two activities. Thus, I resolve to re-prioritize and get both disciplines back into my life. Although I’m going to wait until mid-February to actually step on the scales, I think. Yikes.

Anyway, thanks for your patience – all three or four of you. 🙂 Stay tuned for more … as for now, I’m off to the gym!

Buried Treasures 2 comments

I received the following by e-mail from a Handbasket lurker, a.k.a. Katje’s Auntie:

I am forever amazed at the items that reveal themselves as the snow melts. This week has been a particularly rich experience since the snow melted so quickly that the volume of exposed materials was far greater than usual. Anyway, as we were walking (and sidestepping) I spotted a lemon timidly protruding from a snowbank at about the 3 foot level (can we time deposits like archaeologists?). It was bright enough to catch my attention. Fully 2/3 exposed, I had to have a closer look. The lemon was intact, blemish free, pleasantly plump. I couldn’t help but wonder how it got there. It was too far from the garbage can area of the lawn. It hardly seems the type of thing to jump out of someone’s grocery bag. And I can’t imagine one of the local kids losing it from their lunchbag. (maybe it’s something to do with global warming?)

So, I’m curious as to what’s the strangest thing you or your audience have come across this past week as the snow temporarily recedes? I remember the shoes/food items you photographed last year and can only wait to hear what treasures are discovered this week.

Temporarily recedes? Pshaw! This is spring, my friend!!! 😉

A quick snow melt does reveal lots and and we dog-walkers are front-line witnesses. I can’t say that what Freddie and I have been discovering is always pleasant. For example, there is now clear evidence that other dog owners are not nearly as diligent as some of us are about picking up poo. I don’t know how many times this week I’ve rescued Freddie’s, er, output while staring at many months worth of similar output in the same vicinity. One wonders in these moments if such diligence is worth the effort.

One of my hockey buddies commented the other day about a bicycle that is being slowly revealed from under a massive pile of snow on a street corner. The bike was chained to a street sign and then buried under months of actual fallen snow, topped by snow removal snow. As the snow has started to fade, the bicycle has emerged. It is one of these gorgeous new but old-fashioned “sit up and beg” style bikes with big fat white-walled tires, no gears and a snazzy orange paint job. My friend, a bike-lover, railed against the absentee owner of the bike. “Who would abandon such a beautiful bike to the elements? How irresponsible! If I could pick locks, I’d snag that bike, take it home, clean it up and love it like it deserves to be loved!” I’m thinking about taking bolt cutters to our next game in that neighbourhood.

A fellow walker and I were discussing the mysteries of buried snow treasures in the park the other day. She offered up a story about some winter camping she did a few years ago. A sudden thaw happened mid-trip. The campers decided to go for a hike around a lake on foot/snow-shoe. As they rounded a turn in the path and looked out at a secluded bay, they saw an antler protruding up out of the now-slushy ice surface. A moose had gotten trapped, and subsequently frozen, into the ice at the beginning of the winter.

Personally, I find these early thaws to offer some of the uglier times to live in downtown Toronto. Months worth of discarded wrappers, the aforementioned output, and cigarette butts suddenly appear and I find it almost embarrassing. Especially the cigarette butts which I find distasteful and disturbing at the best of times. I rounded a corner the other day to be confronted with literally thousands of butts on the ground in front of a men’s hostel. That is what it feels like to me, a confrontation. Or, more accurately, an affront. A visual assault.  Blech.

What I remember, and what is missing from the urban experience of a quick thaw, is the smell of the earth thawing out.  A soft warm breeze that carried the oddly comforting smell of old leaves, now almost humus, and that unmistakeable scent of the earth waking up. It is probably too soon for that now anyway, in spite of my enthusiasm for this thaw.

What I have been enjoying is the enthusiasm of our feathered friends for this weather. Birdsong is everywhere, including in the parking lot on campus. Given that the parking lot is my least favourite location at my place of employment, it is particularly lovely to be welcomed by happy active birds, chasing each other from tree to tree.

They should probably get all the activity in that they can muster … we still have most of February and all of March to weather. So to speak.

Autumn in Toronto 1 comment

I’m only just getting around to off-loading some pics from my camera. These were from mid-October, when I had my dog, Freddie, for a fair chunk of time. These are of her favourite park – well, MY favourite park really. It is in Rosedale, a few blocks north of where I live.

Notice her stealth technique.

Notice her stealth technique.

Gotta admire a tree with flare.

Gotta admire a tree with flare.

This is like the big finish.

This is like the big finish.

Differences Between Me & My Dog: The Bathroom Edition Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

1. I do not feel compelled to sniff, examine or otherwise
contemplate the output of my friends or of strangers whose paths I may
cross.
I'm really quite clear on this. There is no information to
be gleaned from such examinations that I can't live quite well without.

2. I do not need to search out and carefully select the "perfect" spot to do my business.
In fact, my apartment has two perfect spots for me. I've noticed that
most of my friends, my workplace, and most public locations have quite
good places for this as well. Granted, it is possible that I may select
a preferred spot for hygienic or olfactory reasons.

3. To my knowledge, my output is not carefully saved for, er, posterity in plastic bags. At least, I certainly hope it isn't.

4. The wind does not blow my pee onto my foot where it then freezes instantly, causing me to frown and whine. This appears to be a seasonal problem. For the record, my dog appears to be pro-global warming.

5. I prefer to engage in this kind of activity alone and in private.
My dog, on the other hand, has no sense of personal space, boundaries,
or privacy with regard to relieving herself or, indeed, with regard to
her compadres relieving themselves. In fact, she has been known to
observe other dogs, at extremely close range, in the midst of
their bathroom activities. After such encounters, I've been known to
ensure that she gets a good scrub down.

6. I have no memory of EVER being praised effusively ("what a good girl!") upon completing my bathroom routine. This is possibly because I take great pains to have no one else in the room at the time (ref. point #5).

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