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The Jay Way Click Here To Comment!

There is probably a reason that I have not chosen parenting as a theme in my life. I’ve not much confidence in this area and, frankly, I have always been just a bit afraid of children. Afraid of saying the wrong things, or somehow putting the seed of some idea in their little heads that will result in years of therapy later. Of making an off-hand comment that will result in a grown up child needing to work out their fear of lawns or tea bags or picture frames.

I don’t really “get” kids. I was one, once, and that is helpful. I have tons of memories of growing up, of course, and most of them are well-worn stories about extraordinary moments of fun or perceived danger or adventure. I remember them with a writer’s eye, as if I was watching all the characters and recording the story as it unfolds, frame by frame.

Remembering the kid perspective is a whole other ballgame. It calls for me to give up the bystander perspective and be “in” the story and that feels like a rusty old tool in need of some WD 40. If I’m being entirely honest, the bystander perspective on memory gives me a ton of control. Switching perspectives, remembering how I felt in those moments, as a participant, gives me up to the gods of vulnerability. Feeling small, feet not touching the floor at the table, laughing inappropriately at my own peculiar logic, trying so hard to understand, trying not to show that I don’t understand, toughing it out (whatever it is), hanging in there and always – always – looking up at people.

Nonetheless, channeling my child of my past is helping me try to figure out the children of my present and the 1,000 ways in which I Do.Not.Understand them.

As an adult, I’ve become very wordy. Come to think of it, I think I was a pretty wordy, nerdy kid. (Others reading this blog are more qualified to comment.) I like to use words. I like to describe things. I expect other people to be able to articulate their thoughts clearly. Children have almost no practice at this and have only a fraction of the tools grown-ups have.  As adults, we ask them to “use your words” but sometimes the words aren’t there yet and nothing can be articulated with certainty. Words turn ideas into defined, black and white statements and sometimes that is just too scary for kids. Sometimes communication has to be non-verbal and thus less defined. Murkier and more open to interpretation. This adult less good at murky. Less sure about what messages I’m sending and even less sure about what I’m receiving.

However, I’m learning to open this channel up a bit wider and listen with more than my ears. Today, for example, I learned more about The Jay Way.

A few days ago, the Gull River Snow Removal crew (me, Jay and Charlotte) tackled the removal of about 15 inches of snow off our 30 x 50 foot ice rink. I started and the kids joined me shortly thereafter, which was nice. Charlotte is a bit less focused on the objective but she does not lack in enthusiasm. Jay “gets” why we need to do this and gamely started shoveling in a sort of random way. After a few moments, I pointed out to him that he would have to move the same snow all over again and I wondered if that was really what he had intended. He looked at his work and groaned a bit. Then, he removed himself to a different area of the rink, not too far away yet untouched by our shovels, and started going in straight lines across the rink. Over and over again. The same line, or so it seemed. In fact, there is no way to fully clear the snow, scraping the surface of the ice, without leaving a trail behind. So he would take a bit of snow each time, clearing up his trails from previous passes. After about 20 minutes, I realized that his ice was cleaner than mine! Not only that, his way was more efficient and well-paced than my way. So, I adopted the Jay Way of snow removal.

It was time again today to take another 10 inches off our unfortunate, as yet unskate-able rink. Poor kids – helping to shovel a rink they haven’t even used yet. What good sports. I hadn’t anticipated any assistance but, lo and behold, the Gull River Snow Removal crew arrived shortly after I started. Jay needed no direction. He started at exactly the same place he had started two days ago, with exactly the same method. Straight across the rink, not trying to take all the snow in one go. Back and forth. Making One. Neat. Row. Then, making that One. Neat. Row bigger yet even neater. When we got to the part that does not, unfortunately, take a straight line across, he created a new, symmetrical, quite artistic yet efficient pattern.

Thus, here is what I know about The Jay Way (so far):

  • I like tasks that let me make patterns.
  • I like repeating patterns and straight lines.
  • I like doing my pattern well.
  • I don’t take direct compliments very well but feel free to tell my sister that I’m doing a good job. 🙂
  • I’m not so good with direct supervision but don’t get too far away.
  • I can concentrate easily when I work alone. In fact, I enjoy concentrating this way. But feel free to distract me with an impromptu, undeclared shovel race.
  • (Also, for pete’s sake, when are we going to get to skate on this ice?!?)

PostCards 4 comments

I don’t believe I’ve ever let a year go by without a blog entry before. Whoops. I’ve had my hands a little full, you see. Sorry about that.

A few weeks ago, I submitted this blog entry from 2010 to Cottage Life magazine, in response for a call for online writers. I received a rather curt response, informing me that the time of the lengthy narrative is over, or some such. It is interesting to note that, as e-reader devices proliferate, content is required to be shorter, pithier and … well … shorter. Or curter, I suppose, as the rejection note I received was only two lines long.

All this by way of suggesting that my blog entries will likely remain longer than the average online offering yet shorter than anything Tolstoy ever wrote. I know my readers can cope.

I wrote to Cottage Life to suggest that I am now living the life of a cottager-in-reverse and, further, suggesting that some might be interested in reading about this. I have only anecdotal data at hand, but it seems to me that there is a steadily growing exodus from high-den-city living to more rural settings. Perhaps I’m part of a trend that people might find interesting.

(Perhaps not, I can hear the CL editor saying, in a demonstration of the brevity he/she had been seeking. Insert here the sound of virtual paper being crumpled and tossed.)

In any case, Knotty Girl and I found ourselves, after 24 months of transitions, adjustments, crisies (real and imagined), and challenges, sitting quietly on our newly re-surfaced dock by the river Labour Day weekend, absorbing the quiet and still moments that remained of the Summer of 2012.











A year ago, our lives were in a state that was just one notch under chaos. My condo wasn’t selling, Knotty Girl’s house-sitting arrangement was due to end, and KG’s mother’s condo was also not selling yet needing to be emptied. KG’s mother, in her own health care crisis, was being shifted from nursing home to respite care to ???. All this left us squeezed and lacking in time and resources to make choices. And stressed.

I want to say that much of what we owned was in this storage locker but, in fact, only about 25% of three households fit in here.  Did I mention stressed at all? We were practically sleepless and vibrating with anxiety from about mid-August to, oh, late September when all the various real estate deals were sealed and decisions had been made. After that, it was just the tiny matter of consolidating three households and getting all our remaining possessions moved. We had about 3.5 weeks to arrange it all. We, meaning me, actually as KG had her hands full with her mom’s health stuff (moving from hospital to hospice to nursing home all while we were trying to do this) and, of course, parenting.

It was important to keep Jay and Charlotte upbeat and away from this stress, so one thing Knotty Girl and I did with them a bit last summer was geocache. Here they are, just over a year ago, finding a cache near Flemington Park, I think.

They have matured so much in the last year, as you’ll see from a photo a bit later in this post.

So – there was a lot going on August/September 2011 and it makes this August/September feel like a breeze in comparison.

In the madcap rush of trying to do the best one can do given the information one has at the time, we wound up moving two hours out of the city. We found a red brick house on about half an acre of property in the Kawarthas, exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes drive from the campus where I teach. Oh … and it is on a quiet, picturesque, swimmable, fishable river. With birds and turtles and ducks and mink and fishies and beavers and deer and …

We like to call it “The PostCard”.

Props to our friends Rachel and Pam who live five minutes up the road for helping us find it and get organized at the destination end, and to Ginny and Heather for being instrumental in getting us moved, in so many ways. I have some photos of actual moving weekend, courtesy Ginny, that I’ll dedicate another blog entry to posting.

We have all undergone some transformations in the past year.  As has the property itself. Here is what it looked like before we made an offer – and I draw your attention particularly to the “lawn” in these photos.

Not only was the actual property suffering a bit from lack of attention and care, we then went and did this to it. (This = Well drilling, November 2011).

Not only does our fabulous new and apparently healthy well provide us with endless water for household use, it literally fuels the heating and cooling of the house. This house is heated and cooled by water from the ground at a fraction of the cost of fossil fuels. We need electricity to run the units and to push the hot or cold air around the duct work.  This was a huge factor for me in deciding to purchase. The house needed to be enough of a bargain to make the major expense of doing this viable. (It was.)

Of course, this system needs drainage and that took three tries to get it right. The first poorly executed attempt flooded our basement. On New Year’s Eve. Our poor yard. Our poor basement. Our poor nerves.

Shortly after the well (not the drain) was finished, it snowed. Quite a bit. And often.

The hydro didn’t go out nearly as much as I hoped expected. But we were ready.











We tried to build an ice rink. FAIL. But we are trying again, post-Sandy.









Some of us really hoped that we had been good enough and that Santa would come (I guess we were, and he did).









We were visited by some adorable – and slightly unnerving – flying squirrels!









Sometimes, it was hard to tell what season we were in.











Someone was kind enough to let me know she likes my cooking.


Then, eventually, the snow melted, leaving us with this. Not sure if you can see it from this photo, but that is a big pile’o’dirt there.








And it was time to get to work on some landscaping and general neatening up to make the place livable.

On my bucket list was “seeing a pilleated woodpecker” – we’ve now gotten up close and personal with several!

Mid-spring, it was time to take Sophie for her annual check-up/ meet the new local vet / get shots, etc. The local vet is great, the waiting room is small, and this little package was hard to miss.

After a weekend’s worth of discussion, which involved me resisting and Knotty Girl campaigning, Joni came home. Colour Sophie “NOT AMUSED”.


Joni is happy in her new home!

Sophie tries to steal Joni’s stuff!

Joni used to like to come to work with me but she seems to have outgrown this for now.

Geometry lesson … mass over fulcrum … no, wait …

(For the record, Joni has pretty much demolished my clothing rack. )

Gymanstics! That’s what I like! Truce. Momentary.So, we threw down grass seed on all that dirt and watered. And waited. And watered. There are no photos of the watering and the mud. Maybe Bev has some as she and Dale and Taryn were up immediately after the landscapers left. She called it water sprinkler performance art. In any case, the (presumed) acquisition of a lawn created in me an urge for machinery. A tractor, to be precise. Apparently, there were a few in the ‘hood to choose from.

I went with something more conventional and am VERY happy with Agnes. Spring and summer were awesome – we had so many friends up to visit. We fished, we swam, we had coffee with snapping turtles … Two turtles blessed our lawn with their nests and we were so pleased to witness the results later in the season. Here is this Momma snapping turtle depositing her eggs. You just don’t see something like this every day – well captured, Knotty Girl!

Here are the kids strutting their stuff off the end of the dock.  The wildlife has gotten pretty used to us. Check out the nonchalant duckie. Video and voice-over courtesy Knotty Girl!

We put up our Pride flag at the end of June and enjoyed it throughout the season. This particular flag is very special, being a souvenir from a Fundy Boy production. It sports Pride on one side and a Union Jack on the other! Note sproutage of the lawn, looking more green than brown!

The summer sped by and it was time to order firewood. I know I’m hard of hearing but so was the other guy on the end of the phone when I ordered it. He brought two bush cords – I only ordered one! The kids were fabulous helpers when it came time to stack this. I taught them to sing “I know an old woman who swallowed a fly … ” and after we went swimming and I taught them how to spit sunflower seed shells into the water. I am a bastion of edification.

All that firewood inspired us to construct a fire pit which I hope will get lots of use in future seasons.

We did plant a garden but much too late. Still, we did get piles of stubby tasty carrots, some hot peppers, one zucchini, four beets and about a bushel of green tomatos.

Too soon, it was time to head back to school.

For the curious, I go back to school, too. My rhythm has changed, obviously. I head down to the Big Smoke for several days in a row for teaching/meetings/hockey then head back up. My schedule will change each semester so – always an adventure! I try to take as much of what I need as possible to keep costs down. Here is my first week of sandwiches for lunch, in waxed paper, obviously.

Of course, in Toronto, there just isn’t space to teach the way I’d like to. Helping Jay With Some Geography. Knotty Girl captured us in secret from her office window.

Remember those snapping turtles laying eggs? Well, you know all that circle of life stuff. Several hatched and made it to the water! (Again, video courtesy Knotty Girl.)

The pictures and videos tell part of the story. So much more happened. So many friends came to stay and visit. So many small and not so small improvements were made and many more planned for. We learned that we never have enough time to do it all. I learned that sometimes it doesn’t matter.

I’ve learned that kids are amazing and challenging, sometimes at the same time. Great teachers they are, too.

So are cats, as it turns out.

I learned how hard I can be to live with sometimes. This is something you lose sight of when you live alone for a long time.  I think I’ve learned to be less hard. Or at least, I think I know what “less hard” might look like when I get there. I think the 2010/2011 vortex scarred us both, differently maybe. We seem to be just emerging from all that chaos now, healing still and getting on our feet. It feels like a relief to let go of the anxiety.

I’ve learned that the WWBA from previous posts is really the Woman With Beautiful Soul but that is WWBS and that doesn’t sound as good. Nonetheless … as I write this, Post-Hurricane-Tropical-Something-Or-Other Sandy is on her way and there is no one I’d rather be in the PostCard in the woods with tonight.The wind is howling (apparently – I can’t hear it) but we are snug and settled here. A year and a bit ago, the world was going on as normal and our world was being turned on its head on a daily (hourly?) basis. Now, we are quite stable here while the outside world is getting tossed around. Funny how things shift.  That is a lesson in itself.  Wait five minutes (six months? a year?) and things can look quite different.

I head into Year Two of the PostCard, I feel like I can get back to more regular blogging, which I would love. I’ve missed it so.



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