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Archive for December, 2009

Do you prepare? When I am cooking I need to be prepared.  I have to figure out what I am going to make, find the recipe make sure I have all the ingredients and then I follow the recipe to the letter.  I bought a cook book and only after I got it home did I realize it was published in Britain and most of the recipes called for things like a dash of salt and a knob of butter and a smidge of things.  My measuring tools do not measure in quantities of knobs and smidgens.  The book looks impressive sitting on the counter but it will never be used by me.  My wife on the other hand walks into the kitchen with an idea and magically knows what ingredients will go with others to make something good.  She will walk through the grocery store and pick up some new item and says, “This looks interesting I’m sure I can use this with something” and in the cart it goes.  In this case it was orange curd.  Two weeks later she was making a cheese cake and decided to throw in the orange curd.  It was one of the best cheese cakes I ever had. 

When we travel the rolls are reversed I want to hit the road and go.  My wife likes to plan, when we went to California she took out a map decided where we were going to stay and called and made reservations.  (we made the trip in 3 days) Admittedly if she had not done that there was a night in Moab where we would have been sleeping in the car.  When we were dating and I was living in Vancouver I would buy a plane ticket two weeks ahead of time.  My wife would be bugging me for weeks, she wants to get the tickets a month in advance.

while I follow a recipe for cooking, I had no plans for the dog house I hadn’t figured out what materials I would need I just started hammering stuff together and it all worked out.  My best friend and I built a deck on the side of his parents house, no plans just an idea a saw and wood.  Last time I was in Montreal (20 years later) that deck was still there.

When my wife and I play video games she reads the directions watches all the clips and follows the plot, I just jump in start killin’ stuff and hope for the best.  When putting items together such as dog kennels, entertainment centers and the like we both believe the instructions are just manufactures suggestions.  I find it odd how we respond to different situations in such different ways 

We were out to dinner last night with some friends and in the course of a story he told us at one time he was a scout leader immediately I went back over 25 years and recalled a story I hadn’t thought of in at least 15 years. 

While visiting a friend in Ontario, we decided to go camping on Big Bear Lake.  We packed up a bunch of stuff took the little boat out and found a chain of islands used by the boy scouts for camping purposes . We found one complete with an outhouse, (for those who suffer from Crohn’s disease bathrooms are always on the forefront of every thought).  Even though it was an island there are still bears and other scavengers so we put up the tent put all our food in a bag and hoisted it into a tree.  Mike decided to use the outhouse.  He was in there for a bit when I heard him calling. He needed the toilet paper.  I tore our luggage apart but I finally had to tell him that we didn’t have any.  “Check the bag with the food”  I unhooked the rope, lowered the bag knowing it was all in vain, sure enough no toilet paper.  There was a long pause after I informed him of the bad news but he finally responded, “Can you bring me my checkbook?”  Brilliant I thought, he we are on a tiny island in the middle of a huge lake and we forgot toilet paper but managed to bring a checkbook.   “Nice going Mike, you forget toilet paper but bring along your checkbook.  I really don’t think you are going to be able to buy any toilet paper out here.”  Mike, while an odd sort of fellow was very resourceful as he replied “I’m not going to write a check with it, I am however going to clean up my deposit”  Really didn’t need to know that but I did have to give him credit.  Good thing debit cards had not been invented yet or he would have never brought a check book. 

Unknown to us, sometime after we made camp a troop of boy scouts made camp on a nearby island and must have been paying attention. The next day we took the little boat to a nearby ‘town’ purchased some toilet paper and headed back to camp.  Imagine our surprise when we found 6 rolls of toilet paper stacked up in front of our tent complete with a note.  Always be prepared,  Boy Scouts of Canada.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships and what makes them work.  I’ve been told you should go on a canoe trip with your significant other and that should tell the tale.  I believe it, my ex-wife and I couldn’t even drive the car into uncharted territory without getting into some sort of argument.  My current wife and I have no trouble driving to new places and the canoe trip was a walk in the park.  It took us 2 days and lots of swearing to put together a dog kennel which the instructions said should take two adults two hours to put together.  We never swore at each other, well perhaps once or twice under our breath seriously though it was the total lack of instruction that was frustrating.  The point is that we were able to accomplish it together.  I guarantee that if we had to do it separately it would have never gotten done.  We also know when to back off and let the other do their own thing.  For example I built the dog house from scratch.  A few ideas I ran by my wife just to get a different perspective but in the end I pretty much did it myself.  I’m quite proud of it,  it has its own front deck, louverd windows, ceder shingles two rooms, fully insulated.  But thats enough bragging.  My wife knows how to decorate the house.  She has a great sense of what goes with what, Me? I would buy the cheapest paint they had in the store throw it on the wall and hope for the best.  Point is we know where our individual strengths and weaknesses are and how to work them together.  That is not to say we don’t have our moments, but we work them out and let them go and if the need should ever arise I’ve a pretty nice dog house I can move into.  Of course any relationship is more than the sum of its parts there has to be that thing!

When I was quite young we were driving by a cemetary my mother said, “Look, it is the dead center of town.”  My father replied, “People are just dying to get in there”  I probably won’t live this down as this is the first time I’m going to admit it, but I didn’t get it I figured cemetary’s marked the center of town and they were fenced in to keep all the people out.  eventually I figured it out.

For our honeymoon we went to Vermont.  It just so happens that there are a lot of cemetaries in Vermont.  I decided to see if my wife would take the bait.  We passed a cemetary and I made the comment,  “Oh look a cemetary it’s the dead center of town, people are just dying to get in there.”  There was no response except for The Look.  My wife is smart and she knew me long enough to know something was going on, after all she figured out that a beefmeoak is a porcupine  and ceilingchaos translates to a floor plan not to mention the host of others that I previously thought only my family and possibly Victor Borges could work out on their own and find funny.   Each time we passed a cemetary I said the same line.   It must have been the third or fourth cemetary we passed that my wife shocked me into silence:

Me:  “Look its the dead center of town and people are just dying to get in there.” without pause my wife responded completely dead pan: “I’m betting its the underground economy”

We sat in absolute silence for about 30 seconds before we both broke out in fits of laughter.  But in those 30 seconds a whole new door opened for me, I remember the exact thought that went through my head, It doesn’t have to stop there!  To this day I’m not sure when my wife figured it out but obviously she had been thinking about it for some time.  The very next time we passed a cemetary it started in earnest:

Me: “Look its the dead center of town, people are just dying to get in there”

Wife: “Must be the underground economy”

“Yeah and they listen to that 60’s music after all they are a bunch of dead heads”

“And you have to worry about catching a cold with all the coughin’ (coffin)”

“And the gambling! they really like to roll them bones”

With each cemetary we passed we kept adding more and more lines.  Not long ago we drove to California from Pennsylvania it got to the point where we could hold a 25 minute dialogue going back and forth with the puns.  I believe it was when we finally hit New Mexico where whoever was not driving would pretend to be asleep at the first sign of a cemetary.

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My favourite teacher in high school Mrs B told us that every once in a while you have to ask yourself  “when you dig down and push all the crap out of the way, are you happy? ”  There is a difference between being happy, and being unhappy in your current circumstance.  If you are unhappy inside and you decide it is because of your spouse, so you kick your spouse out, you are still going to be unhappy.  It may be that in the road to happiness you may have to make those choices but if you don’t find a way to make changes within it is not going to matter what happens on the outside.  I was married once before and I certainly was not happy in the situation but I was still a happy person.  It got better once I was free but only because I was already in a good place on the inside.

As an aside, for me, I think the key is to let blame go, come to terms with whats going on take responsiblity for it and move on. 

I suffer from Crohn’s disease it is quite painful and affects everything I do, but it is a part of me now and I’m not sure what I would do without it.  I can say this because I have come to terms with Mr. Crohn and there is no other option.  When people find out and they know what it’s all about they always get the look and I get the “oh thats horrible what a dreadful disease” and yeah well it is.  But you know what else?  It’s all good in the hood, honestly there is a lot worse out there.  I could have Crohns and not be a happy person.  Not only would that be unbearable but I would be unbearable. (pause for the comments from the peanut gallery) 

You may be wondering what brings this on?  My parents recently celebrated their 51st Anniversary.  In this day and age, (can there be a day without an age?) that is a remarkable feat.  Or is it?  My folks have given me a lot I won’t speak for my siblings but I’m sure they would agree that we had/have it pretty darn good.  More than anything they have given me the ability to be happy.  To be able to laugh, laugh at life, laugh at myself, and yes to laugh at with others.  I look for the absurd and embrace it.  Mom, Dad don’t ever forget that I love you for it. 

So how the heck do they do it?  I think they can laugh with each other, not the surface laugh but the one inside, the laugh that counts.  I called them from Vancouver, they were in Montreal.  My mother picked up the phone and started to tell me a story, my father believed she was getting the story wrong and picked up the extension and started to correct her so they started arguing.  Finally I interrupted “Hey, I am going to hang up so you can argue on your own dime” The response? “You call this arguing,  we are not arguing, we’ll tell you when we are arguing”  they both  laughed.   Then there was the time when my Mother was trying to remember the name of a TV show she used to watch.  The conversation went like this:

Mom:  “Remember that show on TV?”   pregnant pause

Me:  “I think we will need a few more details”

Mom:  ” It was a western and it is not on TV anymore”

My brave wife chimes in: “Gunsmoke?”

Mom: “No not that old”

Me: “perhaps a few more details”

Mom “They wore cowboy hats, somebody got shot and they had horses”

Dad to us and my Mom, “She is talking about Dallas.”  There was no hesitation in his voice it wasn’t a question he just knew.  We laughed then, and we still laugh about it now.   I can write an encyclopedia of similar incidents and I am probably not aware of volumes more and through it all we still laughing.

So, is it really so amazing they are still together?

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This will be my 10th post and it is going to be self-indulgent after all this is a journey about me.  Have I learned anything from any of this?   I’ve made a few observations.  I’m petty sure I was taught this in high school but it only hit home once I started this blog, the ending is always somewhere in the beginning.  Writing, like everything else takes on a life on its own. All I can really do is have an idea and start typing, it doesn’t take long before the story heads off in its own direction. I can try and nudge it one way or another but usually I end up having to change words around to accomodate the new direction. If and when I try to nudge it back to my orignal intent the words feel wrong.  An easy example of this can be clearly seen (from my perspective) in Magical moments. The entire post was supposed to be comedic in nature and focus around the raccoons climbing up my wife’s leg.  Instead that theme turned into one line.  While I hope folks found the entry funny the point turned into something quite insightful,   I got as far the raccoon climbing my wife’s leg and from there the story sat in my draft file for a week and a half without an ending.  Eventually I looked back at the beginning and discovered that the moment that the wildlife people live for wasn’t just the release of animal it was the success of a process.  I was able to add a little of the reality or at least the reality my wife and I go through and some of the elements that make it special.  So the story took on its own life and the ending which had eluded me was right there at the beginning.

The person who inspired me to start a blog, or at least who managed to get me off my arse and start writing manages to post 3 times a week Mommy said what? which is amazing seeing as she has the boy, the girl, the husband, the job and a life. My goal is twice a week with the hope of three times. Each time I bring a post to completion I panic, while I have plenty to draw from I go blank.  I don’t want to fall into a rut of similar posts. I refuse to rant and plenty of my posts turn into rants.  I file them away because with some thought I can turn them around.  It takes a day or so to come up with a post.  Then it takes an hour or so to get it to the screen then there is the countless times I go through it over and over again unfortunately I can’t do that in one sitting.  I end up going over it several times throughout the day and then some.  Sure enough I manage to make my self-imposed deadline without much sacrifice.  When I finally publish the post I am happy with it.  Obviously there is always room for improvement, but that is what the next post is for.  

I am quite surprised by the number of people who follow my blog and even more surprised by who some of them are.  My biggest worry in starting this is who is going to read it?  But does it matter?  It must I check on my stats every time I turn on the computer.  It is always a little ego boosts.  On top of that there is a number of people who get the blog sent to them by email I’m not sure if WordPress counts that as a hit or not.  But I know they are there even if they don’t comment on the page itself.  I really am thankful for my readers and hope you continue to read and enjoy.

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One Second

Ever have one of those ‘oh shit’ moments?  You know, the ones where you wish you could take back that one split second that would make life so much easier?

Here is one of mine.

I was transferring our husky from her zipline to her leash,  only to late did I notice that I had not actually connected the clip to her collar.  I will never forget that millisecond where we looked into each others eyes the clip between us, each sharing the same thought, she is free! Just as the thought formed in my head to reach out and grab her, she was gone. 

I stepped back into the house just long enough to inform my wife of the situation.  I made a dash for the fridge and grabbed a hotdog with the thought of bribery in mind.  I saw husky head off towards the neighbors I was in pursuit,  the neighbor came out and made an attempt to intercept husky but it was not to be.  Up she went around his house and across the street to the famous rooster place (once before she was on the loose and was stopped by a rooster, she thought it was a toy and while playing with it my wife was able to grab her, rooster is no more).  I went around one way, my wife was coming up the other.  There was husky, stopped dead in her tracks face to face with two other dogs.  I put the breaks on, this was my chance as her entire focus was on those dogs.  I moved slowly but once I got within striking distance she was on the run again.  My wife was going to get the car to patrol the street while I followed husky into the woods calling her name and waving my hotdog in the air.  Husky would keep me in sight but wouldn’t allow me to get close, the hotdog wouldn’t even give her pause.  Husky’s run, not away from anything, not towards anything, they just run, and that is what she was determined to do.  Down the side of the mountain we went.  Eventually she disappeared from sight I stumbled upon a small brook surrounded by mushy ground.  My tracking blood, (keep in mind I couldn’t even find a train on the tracks) kicked into overdrive as I scoured the ground for paw prints.  I was not sure where I was in relation to my home except that I had to climb the side of the hill, why is it that home is always up hill?  At least I wouldn’t starve, I had my hotdog.   I climbed the hill calling out every now and again but I knew it was a waste, even if she heard, she wasn’t coming and the hotdog was offering no help.   Finally I made it home no dog, no wife, no car, totally exhausted  I dropped to the ground placing my hotdog by my side, (now my only dog), placing my head in hands trying to catch my breath and just wishing I could take back that one second.

Eventually my wife drove down the driveway with husky proudly sitting in the back seat. I was so happy to see them both, the thought of killing the dog quickly left my head. Turns out while I was playing tracker in the woods husky looped around me and went back to the famed rooster place and settled on one of the deck chairs.   My wife with dog securely in the car spent some time driving around looking for me, explaining to the neighbours she found the dog and was now looking for her lost husband.

Husky

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This is not a work related post. The story however begins at work.  I called a local golf center to narrow down an issue they were having and schedule a time for a technician to go and resolve the problem, we made all the necessary arrangements and I went on with my day.

That evening my wife and I were meeting Sparrow, the director of the wild life rehab center and some of her volunteers for dinner.   There was one couple we had never met but we seemed to have a lot in common.  Imagine our surprise when we realized that he was the person I had spoken to earlier that day to arrange for a technician to come out and fix the problem he was having at work.  Such a small world and it was getting smaller.  Later my wife was talking about her work in the agricultural dept.  It turns out the very same day he had spoken to my wife about some soil samples he wanted analyzed!  What are the odds that we were eating dinner with somebody we had never met before yet we had both spoken to during the day on totally unrelated issues?    It is a small world, and it is about to get smaller.  It turns out that they were interested in purchasing a house just two doors away from ours, unfortunately somebody else beat them to it and the house sold before they even put in a bid.  But we had fun imagining how we could have set up a release site for the animals between the two properties.  But wait, the world was yet to get smaller.  Two years later the house came up for sale again.  We contacted our friends and they were still interested in the propery and are now our new neighbors.  Yes the same one featured in hospital and yes the very same who became attached to the raccoons in Magical moments.  Guess what? the world continues to get even smaller.  At the neighbours house-warming party we met the realtor, the realtor’s husband is an aerospace engineer who teaches at the university, (we didn’t know such a program even existed at the university).  He was from Spain so we got to exchange war stories about immigration and had a lot of fun.  Months later my wife and I went through a lot of time and effort trying to purchase two laptop computers from a company who’s online department  messed up the order in more ways than I thought was possible.  Our saviour was a sales rep at the local branch of the store who along with his manager managed to fix everything.  The day we were able to pick up the computers we were chatting with the sales rep and found out he was studying aerospace at the university and surprise, surprise one of his professors was our next door neighbours real estate agents husband.  Yes, the wold keeps getting smaller.  This week I found out that the new hire at my work previously worked with my neighbor. Why am I not surprised?

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Magical moments

I’m sure you have come across those TV nature shows where an eagle gets wounded and brought to a rehab center where they painstakingly nurse it back to health then find some secluded spot on the side of the mountain where they release the eagle which flies majestically into the sunset.  The camera pans to the expert who has a tear in her eye and looks so at peace as she explains that these are the moments for which she lives.  Sorry to ruin the illusion but it just doesn’t work that way. 

Sparrow, the wildlife rehabilitator gave us 5 raccoons to be released, the volunteer, (whom unknown to us was soon to be our neighbour, yes the very same one that we took to the Hospital 2 yrs later) in charge of nursing them back to health had become attached to the little guys and seeing as she was not going to be at the rehab center that day Sparrow decided it would be the perfect opportunity to give them a clean break.  The rule of thumb is not to become attached and not to have the wildlife become dependant upon humans. 

Unlike squirrels who are given to us in a hissing sack, (Leave well enough alone) raccoons are given to us in a dog crate.  They chatter and make all kinds of raccoon noises, but nothing like the squirrels.  You take them into the woods, leave them some food open the crate doors and wait, eventually they move from the safety of the crate and mosey into the woods, at least that is how it would be in that wonderful TV moment. 

The reality:

My wife and I are now in our woods at our dedicated racoon release site.    We open the crate step back with camera in hand and wait to make sure they are all okay.  Out they come, five adorable little bandits, we hang with them for a few moments taking pictures and making sure they are okay after being cooped up in a dog crate.  We are careful to keep our distance after all they are wild animals.    As I take pictures they walk right up to me I back away and they follow, I just stand there and they quickly become bored of me and head their own way.  Finally we turn to leave and unlike our husky, they follow.  We shoo them back into the woods and quickly turn and head back to the house the raccoons are faster and running around our legs and between our feet.  My wife is who is running ahead of me is desperately trying to out maneuver the little bastards bandits, but they are having non of it as they decide climbing up her legs is the thing to do.  We still laugh every time we walk down that particular path.

Those moments are definitely on my list of the moments to live for.   Yes it’s that impossible to describe magical moment when the possums vanish into the undergrowth to enjoy the rest of their lives as they should, but it is so much more.  It is balancing on a ladder while nailing a squirrel box to a tree, hiking out into the woods  in 80 degree heat swatting mosquitos while trying to hold a 20 pound crate of chattering raccoons in one hand and food for them in the other, it’s driving down the highway scared to move, speak or even breathe as 4 wild (meaning fully scented) skunks hiss in their crates in the back of the car, (another story).  Most of all it is laughing with my wife as we share the moments doing the things we love.

One of the little bandits playing in the water.

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