Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Flame

I might have something to add to this... god knows I'm never short on words.. but for now I just want to share my very favourite commercial from the Olympic games.
And, Oh Canada, it's been such an incredible ride.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Power and the Glory


Not a #fridayflash but I had extra words so wrote two stories tonight.. Not braggin or anything, just saying...

This story is dedicated to all my family and friends who told me NOT to watch any more Olympic hockey. *Sigh* By the way, I wrote this while everyone else was watching the Canadian women win a gold medal. I hope you guys are happy.. the game SOUNDED awesome...

Canada is the favourite to win gold at this year’s Olympics.

And like every Canadian worth his or her salt, she makes popcorn and pours herself a Molson Canadian and she sits on the chesterfield, ready to watch her country’s team finally collect its due.

Almost immediately she sees things aren’t going according to plan. The Canadians look awkward, like their skates are dull and they’ve never set foot on an ice pad before. The Americans are all full of grit and gusto and they play like this is their game and they want it, they taste it.

She watches as the Americans score goal after goal and Canada flounders. The popcorn grows cold and so does her interest in the game. She flicks off the TV in the middle of the third period and, despondent, goes to bed. The score at that point is 5-0.

The next morning she wakes to stunning news on her clock radio: Canada has won the game 6-5 in the most amazing comeback ever seen in sports history.

“Cool,” she says.

That night Canada is back playing Russia in the semi-finals. She watches the entire game, even though Canada has obviously forgotten how to play. She wants to turn off the TV and go to bed but she can’t, thinking the Canadians will surely make a comeback. She doesn’t want to miss it this time. And she doesn’t. She watches all night long and the Canadians suck worse and worse and worse.

Russia wins 8-0.

She goes to bed thoroughly depressed, thinking, “I shouldn’t have watched. I shouldn’t have watched....” 

The next night Canada plays against Sweden. They have to win, or they’re out of medal contention.

She realizes what she has to do. 

She turns on the TV and flips around until she finds an old movie. She’s tempted to peek over at CTV, yearning to know how Canada is doing, but she doesn’t.

She knows she cannot watch. Not if she wants Team Canada to win. When the movie is over she crawls into bed, thinking how exciting it will be when she hears about Canada’s win in the morning.

“CANUCK COMEBACK,” screams the headline on the front of the Toronto Star.

She is happy to have made a contribution to the team. When she doesn’t watch the gold medal round, Canada wins.

She is content.

She decides to apply her newfound powers to other sporting events. Thanks to her not watching, Canadian Joannie Rochette wins gold at the World Figure Skating Championship. The Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series and even the long-suffering Maple Leafs finally win their first Stanley Cup since the 1960s.

Thrilled to see her non-participatory powers in action, she doesn’t vote in the federal election and doesn’t even watch the results on TV. Sure enough, an NDP candidate finally becomes Prime Minister. 

When the economy starts playing havoc with her company’s bottom line, she calls in sick and eventually quits. Her company’s fortunes suddenly rocket and she is happy for them.

Eventually she is afraid to become involved in anything, fearful she will cause ill fortune to anyone she casts her eyes on.

She sits at the kitchen table, staring down at her hands, for hours at a time.

She unplugs her phone. She cancels her cable. She throws her crackberry in the garbage.

Eventually she just lies on her bed, eyes closed, hands crossed over her chest.

The world forgets her but she never forgets the world.

She is God, lying on a mildewed coverlet.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slife Five

Slife = Slice of Life
A weekly bit showing our daily world, 
shared with online friends to get to know one another better

8 a.m. Out of the front door and heading to work. Has it really been a week since the last Slife? At the rate time is moving, I'm going to be 95 and dead before the week is out. Speaking of old, look at the icicles growing out of our roof. One is so long it reaches the front deck. 

8:02 a.m. I pause to watch the chickadees having breakfast at the feeder that Dave made. We call it the Squirrel Hotel.

8:03 a.m. I love the trees on our property. Especially in the winter, on a white cloudy day, the evergreens glow green against the snowy sky.

8:04 a.m. This pile of logs is like an iceberg: only the tip of the pile is visible: there's a whole lot of splitting, grunting and carrying underneath. The kids are not thrilled about splitting wood all summer but it's the way we heat our house so it's gotta be done. That doesn't mean I don't get tired just looking at it. We had these logs delivered last week.

2:15 p.m. I was waiting for my computer to do a song and dance today and so had nothing to do but stare at this self-portrait drawn by my then-eight-year-old son, Sam. I lost myself staring at the picture, not sure if I was missing him so badly it hurt, or if it was just his eyes, hypnotizing me. He has beautiful eyes, my Sam. Beautiful eyes for a beautiful spirit.

4:58 p.m. "Honey, I'm home!" Dave and I actually got home at the same time today, something that rarely happens. This is how my betrothed greeted me. This, after all the nice things I said about him at work today. Sheesh. By the way, that's my Dad's shirt he's wearing. I like it when he wears it. I hug him, hard, and I remember Dad wearing it, and it makes me happy.

6:35 p.m. We went back into town to do a little grocery shopping and then stopped in at Subway to pick up a couple subs for dinner. We brought 'em home, did a few chores, then sat down to watch Olympic updates, a bit of the hockey game between Russia and Canada (we kicked some vodka-sipping arse, we did... woo hoo!) and then settled in for the worst American Idol I've ever seen. Oh, next to last night, which, perhaps, was even worse. Man, everyone sucks this year. Just sucks! I don't want to be disloyal to Idol or anything but it was everything I could do not to shut the damn thing off and go the bed.

11:19 p.m. Speaking of bed, I'm heading that way. When you get to be as OLD as me you can't keep up with those Newfoundland whipper-snippers.

I know, it's whipper-snappers. 
Snippers is funnier, though.
And I always vote for funny.

Hugs to Slifers everywhere tonight. May your dreams be Kodachrome candy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Axe Man Cometh

Heeerrre's Cathy!
Me and Dave did the COOLEST thing on the weekend. After I dragged my betrothed off to the local wedding show (oh, and he was thrilled to attend, let me just say... old him and older me in a room full of giggling 20-year-olds ... salespeople trying NOT to ask me if I was the mother of the bride), I dragged him off on an impromptu tour of the area's swankiest hotels.
There are plenty in this area, no denying it, but one of the swankiest of them all is taboo resort in Gravenhurst. Prime lakefront real estate, killer golf course, spa, jacuzzis out the yin-yang and food that's probably even better than Swiss Chalet.
I know, I know, high praise from the Queen of Chalet Suisse.
But taboo is so choice.
Unfortunately, at this time of year, taboo is so closed.
Who really pays attention to "we are closed" signs on front doors? Not us. We saw people meandering around inside, and one of them smiled at us, so in we went.
The smile belonged to the receptionist, who is the girlfriend of the security guard. They have help, of course, but they pretty much run the place in the winter season. They are there 24/7, in this huge, hollow, empty resort hotel in the desolate wintry wilderness.
Reminding you of anything yet?
"This is a whole lot swankier than the Overlook," I said to the cute young security guard.
Did I mention he was cute?
He got my point and made a remark in return, something about The Shining and Jack Nicholson and Stephen King but I wasn't paying too much attention because a) he was cute and b) he was giving us a personalized tour of the hotel at 90 miles an hour.
"Oh," I wheezed, when he asked if he was walking too fast, "no... we're good... just wait a moment while I pop my lungs back in my heaving chest..."
We checked out the indoor pool, the restaurant and every top-of-the-line suite in the entire complex. Talk about a ginormously excellent way to spend an afternoon!
We did beat it out of there when the afore-mentioned security guard started chasing us around with an axe.
But the tour was great while it lasted.

P.S. I took this photo of taboo about a month ago, before I even dreamt I'd be thinking of having a wedding dinner there.
P.S. The security guard wasn't half as cute as Dave. I was just flattering him because he was giving us a free tour.
P.S.S. OK, dammnit, he was cute as a bug's ear. I'm engaged, not blind.

To see how sweet this hotel is, visit taboo.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No More Happy

Oh my lord, yesterday's post was a long one.
My trigger finger got tired just scrolling down the damn thing. So I'm writing this to push it down the river, get rid of it for now.
In place of all those happy-sappy photos, I give you this drivel, a blank page with some words stuck on it. Yeah, sucky, I know, but it's got to be better than all that happy horseshit that has been posted here ever since "The Big Day."
I look at it and, even though I'm the happy one, I still get all saccharinated.
Somebody put a tongue depressor in my mouth, I'm sugary and shaking.
Hey, I just finished writing #fridayflash for tomorrow. I don't understand why it's #fridayflash and not #thursdayflash because the fact is it gets written on Thursday. Well, except the first time I wrote it. The first time it was Friday night. Late Friday night. I only wrote something fiction-ey because I had nothing non-fictioney to write about. 
So I just made something up.
Since then I've been making all kinds of crap up.
It's fun. It's like getting paid to lie, only without being paid.
Tomorrow's flash is a good 'un, if I do say so myself.
And of course, I do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Slife Four

Slife = Slice of Life
A weekly bit showing our daily world, shared with online friends to get to know one another better.

What a time this is. The best of times, for me, without a doubt. I used to be sad because I would never see a 50th anniversary but now I think it is even more exciting to be my age and anticipating a wedding! Work was fun today, thanks to Tracy Nita Pender, my co-worker and editor of the Wedding Guide. Our newspaper, the Bracebridge Examiner, is hosting a Wedding Show this weekend in Bracebridge and Tracy has written a story for The Weekender, our weekend edition newspaper, promoting the show. She asked me to pose for a photo to promote the show, since I JUST GOT ENGAGED ON VALENTINE'S DAY!!! Not that I'm excited or anything. So the Examiner's talented writer/photographer, Karen Longwell put her best "make-em-look-skinny" skills to work and held an honest to god photo session featuring me, my ring and a bunch of my co-worker pals, oogling my shiny new diamond! C'mon, how much fun is that! Thanks for the photos, Karen, and thanks to my "peeps" for posing!

Another funny photo Karen took today! What do you think of my beautiful ring? I LOVE it! It's white gold with a solitaire diamond in a very modern setting that allows a matching wedding band to fit inside it on one side, and a family ring on other side. Bring on the bling! I love this ring but even more than that, I love the question that went along with it. And more than anything else, I love the man who gave it all to me and changed my life.

Angus got his snowmobile licence a couple of weeks ago and has been chomping at the bit for us to get our machines working. Dave did just that and Gus was positively thrilled, spending hours going round and round and round our yard.

While we were outside, Duck Dodgers watched from his warm window ledge, munching kitty food and licking his lips.

Misty got all dolled up in the outfit Santa Claus brought her and played outside with us until her tootie toes got too chilly. I know, it's ridiculous, but when you have a pooch this tiny you have to dress her to keep her warm. I think pink is her colour, don't you?

Who's the biggest kid of all? 
Dave bought a cheap-o kids' tobaggan and tied it to my snowmobile, then let Angus tow everyone around the yard.

There they go! Look how cute Gus is!

Angus gives his little brother, Sam, a ride. Angus put 11.2 miles on the sled last weekend, going around our yard. Our yard isn't that big, which makes that even funnier. You can always tell when there's a kid and a snowmobile in the family: all you have to do is see a yard completely packed down by tracks and you know some little kid has spent a tank of gas and many happy hours driving in circles.

Sam asked me to take a photo of him with the snowman that Megan Raney made at our place on Boxing Day. The snowman has been snowed on, rained on, melted on and shot at but it's still ticking. Sort of.

Speed of sound: the boys hurtle around the yard in the toboggan, thanks to Bootcamp and the ski-doo. Sam shows off his Olympic red mittens. Go Canada!

Family Game Night: We tried out the new Monopoly game the Raneys gave us for Christmas. It's like the old one only with million dollar bills instead of dollar bills and skyscrapers instead of hotels. Note: Angus and Sam are eating pink and red Valentine cookies.

This is what happens when you don't brush your teeth all day and then eat red cookies. The red food colouring sticks to the plaque on your teeth and you look really, really gross. Do not blow this picture up, whatever you do. Angus, if you are reading this, go into the bathroom now and brush your teeth! Now! Move it! I'm not kidding!

My son the comedian: on Valentine's Day we met Leah and Vic for breakfast at the diner in Sprucedale. It's a little mom-n-pop operation that has loads of old-fashioned country charm as well as really good food. Angus and Sam ordered pancakes and french toast. Angus, the comedian, held the maple syrup containers up to his chest and announced, loudly, "LOOK AT MY JUGS!"

Bringing on the breakfast: from left, Vic, Leah and Dave are all smiles as the waitress brings over our bacon and eggs. MMMmmmm... I wish I was there right now.

The till at the Sprucedale diner. Isn't it GREAT? There just aren't many places like this in the world and I loved this spot, loved it, loved it, loved it. If you ever find yourself in Sprucedale, check it out. Oh, you don't know where Sprucedale is? Well, you go north almost as far as you can, turn left at the middle-of-nowhere and keep driving until the road turns into a pothole. Just kidding! It's about 45 minutes northwest of our house in Bracebridge.

The Sprucedale Bobsled Team sled. I had just stopped at the side of the road to take a photo of the snow sculpture in front of this guy's house (it's all part of the Sprucedale Winter Carnival festivities) when the guy came out and, without me asking, he brought out the parade "float" his wife had made. She and a friend hold up the cardboard sled and walk along, kinda looking like Fred Flintstone if he was a bobsledder at the Olympics. I'm not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination but I've been enjoying the Olympics on TV, especially when Canada won its first two gold medals, ever, in history, on Canadian soil. Go Maelle Ricker! Go Alexandre Bilodeau! We are SO proud of you! Woo hoo!
And that, my friends is Slife on the Muskoka River.

What a week! What a wonderful week!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'd Like To Thank My Mother

Why, Olivia, I didn't know you cared!
Imagine my surprise when I discovered Miss Olivia over there at Away With Words had honoured moi with a Creative Writer Blogger Award! 
A major award! 
Ms. Olivia, do tell, will there be a leg headed my way soon?
Not a real leg, sugar cube, a leg lamp (a la Christmas Story) – you have to be clear when talking to fridayflash blogger-types because a lot of them have insatiable bloodlust. I've read enough dead body stories lately to make me thing Mr. King is a rank amateur.
I was especially tickled to see my name on the same list as my good friend CJ, the Queen of Daloot. The bad news is I guess I can't nominate her for this now because I WOULD because she is so damn GOOD at everything she does.
Not that I'm jealous, or anything.
Not that I noticed that she has better hair than me.
And she's skinnier.
And she's younger.
And she has more followers.
But, really, who cares? Besides, this is all about me.
So I'd like to thank Miss Olivia for her wonderful taste in choosing me. I'd like to thank my mother for buying me my first typewriter. I'd like to thank my cousin Debi Davis for my first newspaper job. I'd like to thank Dave for the big honking diamond on my finger... sorry, I'm still going on about that and will be for some time (if you don't like it, bugger off and go read someone else's blog... there's probably some dead bodies hanging around out there somewhere) ... and I'd like to thank my anesthesiologist for the really good drugs.
Apparently there are some rules involved in this award:

Here are those pesky rules:
1. Thank the person who gave this to you. Merci beaucoup, Miss Olivia.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you. 
4. Tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth or six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie. 
5. Nominate seven “Creative Writers” who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies and truths. 
6. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them. 

And here are my list of lies and/or truths. Guess which are which!!!!!
1. I spent a night in jail for hitting my husband with a Dr. Seuss book.
2. I visited ghost towns all over northern Ontario.
3. I toured with Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins.
4. The first time I went anywhere on an airplane the airline went out of business.
5. I used to be skinny.
6. I met my fiance when he fixed my K-car.
7. I once was a spy.

Now, it’s time to share the love and award this honor to seven more  “Creative Writers.”  
I know, this is like a more complicated version of a chain letter... only it's a Major Award! 
Bring on the leg!

My winners are:
1. Mark Champion at Man Island.
2. Paula Boon at The Life Collector.
3. Lynda Sinclair at Much Ado About...
4. Vic Burton at Spanky McDoodles.
6. Angus Olliffe at Games and Me.
7. Jenn Jilks at My Muskoka.

I'd like to go on more about how wonderful I am, but American Idol is on the boob tube and I do have my priorities.

Monday, February 15, 2010

At Long Last, Love

Vacation Diary Day Seven: Valentine's Day

Sunday morning dawned early on the river.
There was no lollygagging to be done, not when Bootcamp Dave had a project scheduled. I had volunteered Dave to help Leah and Vic install new laminate flooring in their bedroom. We were supposed to meet them for breakfast in Sprucedale at 9:30 a.m. and then Dave and Vic were going to go at it in the bedroom (!).
We were up by seven. Dave hopped in the shower, I made coffee and then roused the boys around. They're pretty sound sleepers, especially Sam, and the only thing that dragged them out of their bunks was the promise of Valentine's candy.
We all met up on the couch a bit later, me trying to rub yesterday's mascara off my face and wondering if the coffee would have more impact if it were injected intravenously. I passed out Valentine's cards to Dave and the boys, then some small gifts: chocolate hearts and funny animated devils that sing "I'm just a love machine... and I don't work for nobody but you..." for the boys and a box of cheapo chocolate-covered cherries for Dave.
He had warned me, forcefully, not to be spending much money for Valentine's Day. For once I paid heed: the chocolates set me back $1.97 at Walmart. 
The boys had bought me some nice stuff: Sarah Jessica Parker perfume and a heart-shaped box of Bailey's liqueur chocolates. 
I was all happy, hanging out with my favourite men, sitting in my crumpled pajamas, pushing bed-head hair out of my face and dabbing spit on my curdled mascara.
Then Dave pulled a small box from behind his back.
I looked at it, hopefully, but didn't think much because, as you probably know, I've been bugging him to tie the knot for almost five years now and I've learned that a small box generally means small earrings.
Which is cool. 
I like earrings.
I opened the box and a diamond ring winked at me.
I looked up at Dave.
"Um, what's this?" I think I asked.
His eyes were filling up with tears.
His lips were moving, in slow motion, but I couldn't hear any words.
He looked like a trout, a mime trout, with his red eyes and his silent moving lips. 
I'm deaf at the best of times but I certainly couldn't hear a word he was saying.
"What????? I can't hear you!"
He grabbed me, pulled me close, and said this in a hot, breathy whisper, directly in my ear: 
"Will. You. Marry. Me?"
After all my whining about him not asking I was quick to reply, "I have to think about it."
I thought for about two seconds and then said, "YES! Of COURSE!"
Dave says none of my earlier whining had anything to do with him asking. He says he'd been thinking about asking for about a year. But when his ex announced she was getting married, and then I had my big blogged-FIT about never being proposed to (see "What's Wrong with Me" if you have the stomach for it), he was momentarily scared off. He was afraid I would forever believe I had whined my way into a marriage proposal.
You know what?
I am so happy right now I don't give a good goddamn why he asked.

Only that he asked.


This photo was taken this afternoon by Angus. It's our 'official engagement photo' taken under the watchful eyes of the Face in the Tree at our home on the banks of the Muskoka River.
I think that, when a smiling tree is watching over you, and the man you love is pure of heart and strong of mind, you are lucky beyond reason and your future is as bright and sparkling and endless as the river itself.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#fridayflash: America

The wiper blades shush-shushed sheets of water from the windshield of Lynnie’s Durango as it sped through the glistening, rain-soaked night.

Dried tears were crusty on her cheeks.

Her eyes were arid, sore, burning with the chore of keeping on the highway, keeping straight ahead, keeping on.

There was an overnight case in the back seat. It bulged slightly. She had packed it hurriedly and nothing was folded. 

Nothing was neat. 

She ruffled through her purse, sitting open on the passenger seat, looking for the pack of smokes she had purchased at the gas station a few miles back. Lynnie hadn’t smoked for two decades but tonight seemed like a good time to pick up the habit again.

She peeled back the cellophane sealer strip with her teeth, then ripped it off and opened the fresh pack. The smell of tobacco whooshed up and she smiled crookedly, gratefully, as she snuffed the scent up.

Lynnie hadn’t smiled for days.

Years, maybe.

She touched her bruised jaw tenderly, grimaced, then pushed in the cigarette lighter.

The highway stretched ahead, middle-of-the-night empty. She pulled a cigarette out of the pack and stuck it in her mouth, staring down the black tunnel of asphalt, waiting for the lighter to pop.

She hummed to herself. 

The song was America by Simon and Garfunkel and it began with slow downhill harmony.

Let us be lovers 

we’ll marry our fortunes together, 

I’ve got some real estate here in my bag ...

The lighter popped, startling her.

Lynnie pulled it out and pressed it against the tip of her cigarette, breathing in. Smoke curled up as the tip reddened. She coughed. Once. And replaced the lighter. 

She took a deep drag on the smoke.

It was good.

As good as she remembered.

“So we bought a pack of cigarettes,” she whispered, “and Mrs. Wagner pies. 

“And we walked off to look for America.”

Her soft voice trailed off. She remembered the first time she had ever heard this song.

She was so young. 

It was her first job after college and she was boarding at a house in the middle of nowhere, owned by an older hippie couple who introduced her to exotica like curry and Simon and Garfunkel. 

No one was home at the moment. Just her. She put S & G’s Greatest Hits on the record player, turned up the volume and carried a cup of coffee and her smokes out to the back stoop.

It was late summer, late afternoon and the distant, forested hills glowed in the sun. The air was thick, redolent, rich. Lynnie drank her coffee and smoked her cigarettes and listened to the record, dreaming of the adventures that almost certainly lay ahead.

She wanted to live her life like the couple in the song. There was a world out there to see. It was calling her. She felt her heart swoon in answer.

Yes, it said. 


“Toss me a cigarette, 

I think there’s one in my raincoat.” 

“We smoked the last one an hour ago.” 

So I looked at the scenery, 

she read her magazine. 

And the moon rose over an open field.

The middle-aged Lynnie smoked her cigarette down to the filter, smushed it into the empty ashtray, then lit another one.

She felt slightly high.

She smoked. 

She sang.

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, 

though I knew she was sleeping.

I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why. 

Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike,

They’ve all gone to look for America...

Lynnie drove through the long night, a melancholy trail of cigarette smoke and broken dreams in her wake.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alan Was Right

Vacation Diary Day Four:

Alan W. Davidson told me the other day to quit sitting around in my underwear.
I should have listened.
But do I really need to get up at the crack of dawn and get fully clothed in too-tight jeans and armour-plated brassiere just so I can sit around in front of the boob tube?
Obviously if Alan W. Davidson had to wear a bra he'd be peeling it off and sling-shotting it into the nearest corner the minute he stepped over his Newfoundland threshold.
Anyway, it was still early. Dave and I had been up for a bit and had watched a chick flick while I sipped my coffee and he drank his juice. 
It was pleasant.
I felt no need to be sitting around in anything other than my t-shirt and gotchies.
That is until the movie was over and I went to the front door to let the dog out.
There I was, in my underwear.
And there was my mother and my Aunt Mary coming up the front stoop.
I shrieked.
It was like the fire alarm went off.
It was every man for himself.
Dave's eyes popped open, he jumped off the couch and ran, literally ran, into the bedroom. All I saw was a flash of his black Fruit of the Looms disappearing around the corner. 
I backed up in what felt like slow motion, each foot mired in quicksand, my mouth frozen in a "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...."
It's only about six steps from the living room to the bedroom but it felt like a mile, the longest of all possible miles, the Superbowl of miles, and I was the quarterback, and I had the ball, and I was so close to a touchdown, but the other team was hot on my trail, and then I realized I was in my underwear, in a stadium, on national TV. 
Suddenly I realized I wasn't the quarterback.
I was Janet Jackson.
Heart in mouth I lunged through the bedroom just as Aunt Mary knocked on the front door, opened it a crack and said, "Hello?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Slife Three

Slife = Slice of Life:
A weekly bit showing our daily world, 
shared with online friends to get to know one another better.
Vacation Diary Day Three:

Am cooking a turkey, one of those discount turkeys we bought on sale and stuck in the freezer. It smells insanely delicious. After reading My Great White North's blog and salivating over her turkey pictures, I knew it was only a matter of time before I hauled the old bird out and stuck it in the oven.
We're having some of Dave's family for dinner tonight. I'm sure they'll taste delicious.
While we wait for the visitors I'd like to show you this picture of our new birdhouse. This thing cost more than my friend's boob job, I kid you not. But it is guaranteed to thwart squirrels (as does the boob job, I hear). 
Not that I object to feeding the squirrels: in fact, we will continue to feed them at our old feeder, using cheap seed.
We were just tired of feeding that chubby old rodent our good stuff.
So far the squirrel thwarting gadget is doing well.

During my gallivanting today I fell in behind this Culligan water truck on Highway 11. LOVED the picture on the back of the skinny lady holding up a gigantic water jug. Not only holding it up but smiling about it, too. I am impressed by her strength but I'm asking why she doesn't just yell, "Hey, Culligan-Man!" and let him do the grunt work? Women's Lib, eh? Pfttt... now we have to carry our own water, hold down jobs and still give birth. What was Gloria Steinem thinking???

Went to the Bracebridge Courthouse yesterday. Not for any reasons you might be thinking. This stately old building houses several government offices including the driver's licensing bureau and the land registry office, both of which I needed to go to. Isn't this how everybody spends their vacation? Doing errands they put off all year long? Oh, and I also got my library card, but not at this building. At the library. But I forgot to take a picture.

This is part of the land registry office. It looks so much like a John Grisham movie that I kept looking over my shoulder, waiting for Matt Damon or Tom Cruise to show up. I was there, rubbing shoulders with real estate law clerks, researching former owners of our little log cabin, which, we were told by the tax department, was built in 1880. I wasn't sure what to expect but it was easier than I imagined. The lady behind the counter asked me a few questions and then went directly to one of the many thick binders shelved in the library-like room. She opened one binder up and pointed to the four or five pages that dealt with my concession and lot number. I was amazed: there, in black and white, were the names and dates of all the real estate transactions on the property over the years.

This is the first page dealing with our property. If you click on the photo you should be able to see a bigger version and, with luck and reading glasses, see the first few transactions. Two of the highlights of the page: at one point the Sheriff of Muskoka claimed the property because of unpaid taxes: $24 was owed to the Township of Draper. Take that as a lesson: always pay the tax man, even if it's only a few bucks. The other interesting thing was seeing the Ontario Hydro Electric Commission paying for the rights to turn the property into a floodplain. This was in 1930: it must have been when Hydro was building the big hydroelectric dams along the river.
Later today my friend Mark did some quick googling and came up with more information about the first inhabitants of our cabin. They were Irish farmers: 50-year-old Richard Doherty, his 52-year-old wife and their six children. That was quite an age to be leaving Ireland to head to the wilds of Ontario to try to farm on the rugged granite of the Canadian Shield. I am looking forward to finding more out about this intriguing wee home on the Muskoka River.

Just around the corner from us is the tiny hamlet of Muskoka Falls. Famous for its waterfall, the hamlet has a school, a cluster of homes and a quaint little white church. Whenever we drive by I say to Dave, "Wouldn't that be a fine little church to get married in?" He usually ignores me. Sometimes he says, "You're not helping your cause."

While I was taking these photos the neighbours came out on their front porch for a smoke and asked me if the church was up for sale. They thought I was a real estate agent. I tried to assure them I'm not but I know they thought I was lying. So now everybody in town is probably gossiping about the church being up for sale and that lying old woman who was taking photos. 

Back home again, with a few flurries coming down. I never get tired of this view. I can hardly wait till the ice goes out and I can go canoeing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wah, wah, wah

Vacation Diary Day Two:

I feel like I worked today. Jaysus.
CJ wrote on facebook: "Man, everybody's cranky!" 
No shit, Sherlock.
Karen wrote on her blog about being all bouncy and happy and snorting a snowflake and, seriously, I just wanted to pop her one!
Sitting down to write my blog earlier tonight, Dave, heretofore described as The Perfect Male, sat beside me on the kitchen floor and started organizing the bills. He was trying to be quiet about it but every once in a while he stuck one of my bills next to my keyboard. "I don't want to disturb you," he said in a shushy voice. "I'll just put these here so you can go through them when you get a chance."
You know, the shushy voice. Like he was afraid to wake the baby.
I know Dave.
When he says "when you get a chance" that means "get off your lazy ass and do it NOW, bitch!"
Since I don't like paying bills, I found the growing pile of manilla envelopes three inches from my left hand offensive. I tried to ignore them. Warn't happening, though. Finally I just grabbed one, looked at it to see if it needed paying or filing or throwing out, and tossed it in the throwing out pile.
Then I grabbed another one. And so on. Until I had gone through half a dozen post-Christmas-higher-than-a-moonshiner-with-a-leaky-still bills and was thoroughly depressed and pissed off.
"There," I said, all huffy. "Are you happy?"
Nothing makes me huffier than seeing how much money I owe.
I turned off the computer and marched into the bedroom. There was no way I could write my blog now. Not when I was all huffy. You can't write a blog when you're huffy. You can barely write one when you're puffy. I know this.
Dave rolled his eyes. I knew he was thinking how he used to be happy before I moved in. I rolled my eyes back. ("That'll fix you," I thought.)
So then the phone rings. It's my mother, canceling our lunch date tomorrow. 
"It might snow," she says. 
You have to know my mother. If there's a flake of snow in the forecast, and I mean a flake, she freaks out. (Maybe she has post-traumatic stress from snorting one, like Karen did.) 
You'd think she just moved here from Florida, the way she carries on. What kind of self-respecting Canadian worries that "it might snow?"
Here's tomorrow's forecast for our area from Environment Canada: Cloudy. 40 percent chance of flurries in the morning. High minus 4.
Ooh, those flurries... might turn out to be the next storm of the century.
I swear I was adopted.

P.S. There were a few bright spots but I'm too cranky to mention all of them. God forbid I start being happy when I'm settling into such a nice funk.
The one good thing I'll tell you about was taking this photo at the Land Registry office in Bracebridge (I was there doing some research on my house.... tell ya about it later. Maybe.) I took some photos for Slife tomorrow and it wasn't until I got looking at them at home that I noticed something peculiar about this photo. I was there for an hour and a half and I never noticed until now.
Can you see what it is?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Vacation is the Cat's Ass

Vacation Diary Day One:

I am on holidays.
Like many poor people, I don't go to fancy resorts with palm trees and goat's milk in your latte, nor do I splat into trees on ski trips like Sonny Bono, nor do I even go snowmobiling anymore because it costs as much as a university education.
I am at home. 
Well, except for the cats and the dog. That is my cat's ass in the photo. I took it a minute ago. The weather is a little on the mild side, you know, only 20 degrees below freezing, so Ben thinks it's spring. He keeps sticking his nose between the cracks in the door, hoping he'll be let out to go woman-chasing. Fat chance of that, really. He has no balls, no front claws and very few teeth. Every time we take him to the vet he screams, "No, mother of god, no! What are they taking this time? My eyes? My ears? A leg?"
We rescued Ben from the animal shelter a few years ago. He has lived a tough life. He spent the first eight years living in an ice hut with three big dogs and a man with few prospects. When the ice hut burned down, the man was homeless and so gave his animals to a local shelter. When we took him to the vet the doc said he had the worst teeth he had ever seen in a cat. And judging by his skinny body, we figure he probably ate the same thing as the dogs ... god knows what that was. No wonder Ben always looks depressed. 
By the way, the photo of the doorway makes me feel like I live in a slum.
Let me just say, I do not.
And, since I cleaned the bathroom just now, it doesn't even smell like one.
The thing is, we are going to replace the front door soon but, in the meantime, I painted it last fall with the wrong kind of paint and now it is flaking all over the place. I try to wipe it up but the flakes are stuck firmly to the painted floor. Now the entranceway looks like it was painted by Jackson Pollock when he was first learning to paint. Or Jackson Pollock in his later years because, frankly, it's hard to tell the difference...
Now, where I was I.. the darn dog was "arfing" so I had to go see if someone was at the door because I'm sitting in my underwear and I don't need any surprises. 
Coast is clear. I can continue rambling, about what, I'm not sure... oh yes, holidays.
I am not sure what to do with myself.
I wanted a whole week free and clear but people keep filling up my calendar with "stuff."
Like, Dave's mother is coming for a visit, I think on Wednesday, and she's never been here so I have to clean the place up. Blech. Just what I want to be doing.
My mother and sister and Grandma Ruth are also coming. More cleaning.
I have a Remicade infusion on Friday.
Dave has taken Thursday off so we can be together.
The kids are coming on the weekend.
That leaves me tomorrow to go into town, change my driver's license address, get a library card, and do some research on the house at the land registry office.
I know, I was going to do that stuff today.
But I've been sitting here at this computer all day.
OK, so I have gotten up to clean the bathroom and do laundry and colour my hair (what an ordeal that was.. and it didn't turn out so well.. the streaks in my hair are inordinately red. I look like an aging punk rocker). I have to do something or Dave will give me "the look" when he gets home from work.
He is such a "goer" that I feel guilty if I spend time doing absolutely nothing.
Which is why I'm doing it today when he's not around to know! hahahahahah (evil laugh)
See, I've been reading everybody's flash fiction today. 
There are, like, 70+ stories to read.
At most, they are 1,000 words long. The shortest ones seem to be a few hundred. 
That's a lot of words.
And then, not only do you have to read the stories, you have to comment on the stories. Because people can tell when you've visited their site and if you've visited and don't leave a comment, that means your story sucks and telling someone their story sucks is just plain rude and, since I am Canadian, I hate it when I do something rude.
So I have been writing comments like a madwoman.
And because I am later than everyone else in reading flash (it's like a race, I swear to god), everybody has already said all the good comments. They're all used up. Just lame comment leftovers. 
Like meatloaf on its third day.

P.S. For those who don't know what #fridayflash is, it's an online writing "club" that isn't a club but is, if you follow. To join, you just write a story, fiction preferably, less than 1,000 words long. You post it on your blog on a Friday, you post it on the Friday Flash Facebook page, you Twitter it if you are into that sort of thing and you record it on a blog tracker (thank you Mad Utopia). Then you spend the whole rest of the damn week reading and commenting on everybody else's stories. 
I'm a fast reader and I think I'm only three-quarters through.
(I need more coffee.)

Thanks to Alan at Conversations at Land's Edge (, as well as his Townie Bastard friends ( for the Batman, which I thefted with much glee. (I'm not swearing, kids, that's the name of the website.)

Oh, and if you want to batman-ize your own thoughts, go here:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Lowest of the Low

This is another story I wrote quite a few years ago for the Haliburton County Echo.
I spent a few hours at Jeff Pinney's house and I remember driving back to the office with my heart pounding, the story writing itself as I drove. 
The last I heard about him, maybe four years back, he was living in a home and not doing very well.
I don't know if he is still alive or not.
I think I'm afraid to ask.
The good news about the story is how the people of Haliburton reacted to Jeff's story. I had several mysterious phone calls at the paper from folks who wanted to "donate" to him. I've seen that happen countless times to people who are down and out ... the community always gives money, food, clothing to those in need. But this was the first time I ever heard of donating marijuana.

A note to my online friend Brooke: this story might be too hard for you to read, considering what you are going through. I'm thinking you might want to give it a pass. OK?

The lowest of the low
Jeff Pinney, a man in a wheelchair, finally takes a stand against the people who have been stealing from him

Jeff Pinney looks a little like Stephen King. It's the shape of his face, mostly, the big, brown-framed glasses and the long, dark hair, tied back in a messy pony-tail, that's reminiscent of the bestselling novelist.
And like King, Pinney has been dealing in horror – not the fictionalized, paperback kind, but the real-life, gun-at-your-forehead-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind. It's the kind you normally dream about: you're alone in the dark, you hear noises and suddenly you realize you're not alone, not anymore, and you can't move. You can't run. And it happens again and again and again.
Pinney is a man in a wheelchair. He's more than that, actually. He's artistic, intelligent and generally self-sufficient. He built the unusual but beautiful house he lives in, built it up from an old hunting camp on the Buckslide Rd. He is known as the guy who carved the totem pole at the garage in Carnarvon and he has carved a life for himself, and his gregarious, grey cat named George, in an idyllic natural setting as he waits for tell-tale signs of his impending death.
He has multiple sclerosis. Has had it for 20 years or so, "longer than most people." It's a degenerative, terminal disease that confuses the electromagnetic impulses sent by the brain, eventually shutting down every limb, every organ. His sister, Julie, was diagnosed first so when he first realized his body wasn't reacting the way it should, it didn't take doctors long to figure out that he had it too. 
"When I was diagnosed I was still physically able to build a house," he says. "Since I knew I had this disease and I knew it was progressive, I knew I didn't want to stay down there in the city." 
He'd been to the Haliburton area as a child so he decided to move here, to build a house with his own hands. That way he would have no mortgage and would be comfortably set up, ensuring that when the MS got really bad, he'd be able to cope.
"It took me 15 years to build this house," he says. "And I'm not leaving."
He's a big man, hunkered down in his wheelchair, his one leg reinforced with some sort of support bandage; his other leg has a bag of urine tied to it. It's a cold, blustery day outside, but it's warm by the fireplace he has built. All around him are the bird carvings he did while he was able. 
In the last four years the MS has come down harder on him. He can't carve anymore, so he paints, but even that ability may disappear because he is losing control of his fingers.
Most people, most good people, would want to reach out to a man like Pinney. To help him. Not everyone, though.
"I keep getting robbed," he says. "Eight times in the last five years."
Sometimes they break into his house while he's there. Sometimes they wait until he's gone. The worst was at four-thirty in the morning one September, a few years ago. "I just woke up and there was a gun pointed at my eye."
There were five of them, he says. They were looking for drugs and money. He had a room mate at the time and they went to her room, woke her up and tied her to him, back-to-back, with duct tape. "I knew they were local because they were trying to say they were cops but cops don't use duct tape... 
"For some reason they got the idea I had money," so they grabbed the side-cutters Pinney used to snip heavy wire and said, "If you don't tell us where the money is, I'll cut your finger off." 
Pinney didn't think they'd do it. "I was thinking, in my mind, these were local idiots, not big-time criminals, and they're not really going to cut my finger off," so he didn't tell them anything – not that he had any money to give. "I was gambling." 
Then one of them found a propane torch "and they were going to torture me with the propane torch but then something happened. I think a car went down the road and they thought someone was coming. They must have taken off because suddenly it was quiet."
His room mate, "as you can imagine, was totally freaked." She moved out soon after. 
"It was terrorism," he says. "I'm not a violent person and when it was happening, I was like, holy shit, this is unreal."
Anyone else would have called police. Immediately. Pinney didn't because he was afraid of getting into trouble with the law because he grows and smokes marijuana. He does it to help control the symptoms of MS – the pain, the spastic jerkiness of his limbs, the depression.
There are other drugs used to treat MS – prescription drugs – but marijuana is the drug of choice for Pinney and for many sufferers. "It works for me but not for everybody. I don't use much," he says. "Sometimes I go a week and won't smoke at all. Sometimes I use half a dozen joints a week or maybe a little more than that." 
Other drugs have side-effects "that affect your whole system ... they leave me flat on my back." With pot, Pinney says, "I'm aware of the pain but I can separate myself from it."
He also finds the pot relaxes the violent, spastic movements of his joints. Once his foot jumped up so strongly that he broke three toes.
The government, he says, now gives licences to some people with diseases like MS, terminal cancer and AIDS, to use marijuana in their treatment. But when Pinney was terrorized by the people who broke into his house and held a gun to his head, there was no such thing as a licence to smoke pot. He was sure that if he called police, he'd be the one in trouble, not the thieves.
The thieves seem to know that, too. Since that time, he's been an easy mark for what Pinney calls the "lowest of the low ... "I look at people who rob from people in wheelchairs as the lowest people you can get." 
They come to his house, steal what money he has, steal what marijuana he has, rip up the plants he so carefully cultivates and even take the light equipment he uses to grow it. Once they even stole his jar of pennies.
The last time he was robbed was just a few weeks ago. One night he went outside to get some fresh air and got his wheelchair stuck in the mud on the front lawn. He says he was stuck there for four hours. As a result, he developed a severe bladder infection and was hospitalized in Lindsay. He got out of the hospital on his birthday, Oct. 5, and, in spite of everything, "I was feeling pretty happy, hey, it was my birthday." 
When he got home, he realized he'd been robbed again. All the marijuana plants he'd been so carefully tending during the summer so he'd have pain relief during the winter, were gone.
He doesn't have any money. He doesn't have any drug connections and says he can't simply call up someone and order more marijuana. Thieves have taken everything he has, all his growing equipment, all his plants, everything.
Pinney slipped into a deep depression. And then he got angry.
He called The Echo to tell his story because he's sick and tired of being robbed. He doesn't really believe that the kind of people who robbed him are the kind of people who will read the newspaper and see the error of their ways. But he's hoping that "word will filter down to them that I know what they're up to" and maybe if the public knows that he has been robbed, thieves will be less inclined to take advantage of him. He knows he could get in trouble because of the marijuana but he says, "if the police want to get in touch with me, fine ... they're robbing me on my own property, in my own house, and that's a crime."
In spite of the fact that he can apply to get a licence to smoke pot, he still doesn't have one. He says there's too much paperwork and red tape involved. It's the same for everything when you're sick, he says. 
Takethe stairglider he has installed in the stairway to the upstairs of his house. "It took a year to get and by the time I got it, my disease had progressed so much that I couldn't use it." 
He agrees that he should apply for the license, but he's beyond the point of caring whether or not he gets busted for growing pot.
Besides, he's not one for paperwork. Or any kind of conformity. "I'll paint a painting before I'll do paperwork." It's why he "gave up my social life" and moved to the country. It's the loner in him, the rebel, the desire to stand in the face of adversity. "I'm what they call an MS survivor. I should be dead. I'm not going to go to a home. That's my choice. I'll live here as long as I can. That's my decision."
He's not totally alone in the world. Homemakers come every morning to help him get out of bed and look after his health needs. There are also hospice volunteers who visit. And there's his 80-year-old mother who lives in the city looking after his sister. He doesn't tell her about the break-ins because he doesn't want to worry her. "She still thinks I'm going to be a politician some day," he says with a sorrowful laugh and a shake of his head.
Pinney says he doesn't have a lot to live for. Just his cat. His art. And the brief respite he says a marijuana cigarette brings.
"I'm tired of living this way," he says. "If I had a $100,000 it wouldn't do me any good because I couldn't do anything with it. There's very few things I have to look forward to." 
Depression is a battle he fights every day. If things get too frustrating, "I smoke, I calm down, I feel OK. It doesn't bother me that I'm not getting any painting done and I don't get so depressed."
He says he doesn't smoke pot to get high – "it's just a way to get by" – but then he adds, angrily, "When you're in my condition, God forbid I do something that would make me happy. Oh, God forbid it would ever make me euphoric."
It doesn't matter now anyway. He has no marijuana left. He has no money.
"You know the best way to stop people from stealing from you? It's to have nothing."
He has nothing left to steal.
And nothing left to lose.