The Surprising Shiatsu Massage Miracle Worker Guy

While walking with my bestie the other day, I recalled this story about a pain-in-the-neck visitor and how a miracle worker helped me through it

I awoke with an awful and mysterious pain in my neck.  It was bad.  About an 8.5 on the scale and it felt stiff and sore as hell.  I was nauseous too.

It was 1997.  Scar-beria in the North, North Beaches at Birchmount and the Danforth where Dean and I were renting a fabulous red-brick two and a half story house.  It had a shot-gun back yard that Delta and Grizzly loved and would fly off the back deck to chase down squirrels to the perimeter, tales wagging and barking all the way.  We had just exited the Arctic and on to a new adventure starting in the GTA. (We have moved six times since then.)

I had received a call from my Dad who was in Niagara Falls then.  He wanted me to come visit regularly.  He wanted to form some sort of better relationship with me now that we were relatively close by.  The following words came out of my mouth, as if with a mind of their own,

‘Why not come visit me, Dad?  You could see our new place and we could have a walk on the Bluffs and see all the gorgeous estates and pretty fall colours.’

Pause.

Okay I will, he said.  Give me some directions and I’ll come next week on Tuesday.

Tuesday has no feel, I thought, an automatic comedic reply, in my head, from a favourite TV show: Seinfeld.  I’ll make you lunch, Dad.

Okay…so now what?  My stomach roiled.  My forehead beaded with sweat.  My heart pounded. I was having a stress response and his visit was a week away.  Yikes.

The following morning, I awoke with the stiff, sore neck.  I searched the Beaches huge paper phone book (what’s that?)  for a massage therapist who could help me.  I made a bunch of calls but the only guy who was available asap was the guy mentioned in the title of this post.  I went for it.  Immediately.  That’s how afraid I was of this pain.

I drove down there and parallel parked in front of his address.  I literally was saying ouch, ouch, ouch, ahhh as I struggled to turn my head to maneuver into the spot.

I had never had a shiatsu massage so, I was really unsure of what to expect.  Having spoken to the guy on the phone, he sounded so nice and sincere, I was feeling hopeful.  Something had to help this pain in my neck.

When I walked into his therapy room, I saw a futon mattress on the floor covered with a perfectly white sheet.  He was dressed in white also and he had this curly head of blond hair and this angelic face that he turned toward me.  He had a dozen or so years on me and he remained kneeling on the futon in hero pose as he gestured for me to have a seat so we could have a chat before treatment. He positioned himself so that I didn’t have to turn or cock my head in order to look at him. The tears were already spilling down my cheeks.

Oh dear, he said.  Martha, why not tell me what’s going on?  When did the pain start and what’s happening in your life right now?

I told him the pain arrived out of nowhere.  Woke up with it.  Told him I was feeling very anxious about my Dad coming to visit and that we had a tough relationship.  Then I said…

He’s a real pain in the neck.

Ahhh, he said gently.  That sounds like it could be the problem.  Parents can be the source of a lot of stress.

I was making ahuh sounds wanting to nod but unable to at this point. (K, while I am writing this, there is this pain creeping into my neck…sympathy pain for that younger version of myself, perhaps).

He asked me the exact plans for the visit.  This guy was into concrete details, not airy-fairy.  I was liking him more and more as I am a very concrete-type person.  I told him that I was going to show my dad around and make lunch for him and then take him for a walk down to the Bluffs.

He asked, what sort of food does your Dad like?

I said, he likes steak and blue cheese and almost everything besides that.  He likes black coffee and desserts too.  He’s a good eater, I said.

Well, then how about a steak salad with blue cheese crumbled on top, said Mr Angelic Shiatsu Massage Guy.

Was this guy for real?  He was truly helping me.

He said when a stressful visitor is coming, it’s a good idea to have a set plan for the visit, with an end point (have something to do on the other end that brings it to a close, in this case it would be the 2:30 rush hour GTA traffic to be avoided at all costs).  Have a menu and be organized.  Next, realize that you are in control of this visit and that it is on your turf and that ninety-nine percent of things we fret and worry about never actually happen.  Have low expectations of your visitor so he doesn’t disappoint you again.  Realize that he is him and you are you.  You are an adult now, Martha.  No need to let him infect you any longer.

The pain was subsiding while he gently and sincerely spoke these words to me.

He then had me lie down on my belly on the pristine white sheet and he worked on my neck, shoulders and back.  He worked my arms and fingers too and moved to my feet.  By the end of it I was a jellyfish on the sand.  All pain was gone.

I will never forget this miracle worker who helped me through this stressful event.  It was the best sixty bucks I ever spent.

So, Dad showed up on Tuesday at 11 am. (My husband Dean was downtown Toronto at iti, as he was on an intensive 9 month course). Dad was on his best behaviour.  He was charming and funny and polite.  He loved our house and lunch made him speechless.  The steak salad with crumbled blue cheese turned out to be fabulous with garlic toast and butter tarts for dessert with black coffee.  He was eating out of my hand by the end of it. (Figuratively speaking).

We waddled down the hill to the Scarborough Bluffs and walked in the park there with the dogs also on their best behaviour, for once.  The whole visit was incredible.  Then Dad looked at his watch and said he should hit the road back to Niagara Falls.  He gave me a peck on the cheek and off he went, with a butter tart and a black coffee for the road.

One thing for sure, that pain in the neck got my attention.  It made me seek help and because I really needed it, I was open to receive the help.  It equipped me for future pain-in-the-neck challenges and helped me to realize that most of the things we worry about never even happen.

Most of them.

Yo! Universe, Thanks Again 🙏🏻

You can’t always get what you want but, if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need*

I was just telling a new friend of mine about how many times it has happened to me, in my life of 52 years, that the Universe has basically provided me exactly what I need…I mean, what I need has just dropped into my lap.  Pretty cool.  This post is about a few of those instances and how they happened and just how cool it is…

The most profound instance of this was the meeting of my husband.  At age 22, I had just driven solo across Canada from Comox, BC to Borden, Ontario to join the Basic Army Logistics Officers’ Course.

Day one, October 1988, I arrive at the school hallway with its long line of hooks under a very long hat shelf to hang up my Army Issue gabardine rain coat and to shelf my beret.  It was a wet and cool day.  I was trepidatious.  I didn’t know a soul on this course.  There were about sixty other young officers from all over Canada.  I am hanging up my coat facing left when a tall, dark and handsome green-eyed young officer hangs his coat beside mine. Catching my eye, he says a simple, “Hi” with a cute grin.  I completely melted and saw stars right then and there.  A feeling enveloped my being.  I knew that this guy, whatever his name was, would be very important to me.  Then he scored a perfect 100 on the opening placement exam and I gulped.  He was intelligent and gorgeous.  When I saw him kick a soccer ball and I realized that he was also athletic, oh my god

A year or so later, even though I did not ask to be posted to Germany (when everyone else did ask), both he and I got posted to Germany, same battalion, same company, working side by side as platoon commanders.  Coincidence?  I think not.  We have been married for 26 years.  Thank you Universe.

But what is amazing about this story is all the shit that had to go down before we actually met on that day at Logistics school, hanging up our coats.  You see, I had been at Waterloo University when my summer job money ran out and no one was able to help me.  I fetched about for a way to attend higher education. I wanted to qualify for a good career.  My mind came to the idea of joining the army and the many and in-depths steps that had to occur to get in and then take, tolerate and pass the brutal training…then the nightmare of military college…then a short posting to Comox…then the drive to Ontario then hanging up my coat beside my life-mate, enduring months of training and then a posting over-seas…together.  Jeezus.

So, many other much less spectacular things have happened too.  Just this week at a friend’s house.  She gives me a random book to read saying I will love it.  The next night at book club, finding out that that very book is the one we shall read next.

Needing a sleeping cot for my visiting family…verbalize this need to my hubby, (the same cute guy from Logistics school) while driving on a country road.  Thirty seconds later, my eye catches something on the side of the road.  It’s a perfectly fine sleeping cot. We pull over and put it in the back of the car.  Thank you Universe.

A competition is announced at Paddy’s Pub where I worked for a couple of years upon moving to Wolfville.  ‘Whomsoever signs up the most folks for a loyalty card shall win an IPOD.’  Those words were said and I knew in my being that I would win that IPOD.  It was the latest technology.  Friends were digitally storing their music and photos on them.  A month later I walked home with that new IPOD, feeling like it was a million bucks.  Thank you Universe.

At a high school basketball game, I paid for a 50 / 50 ticket and again that whole body feeling enveloped me.  An hour later I was called up to collect $90.  I know it was just 90 bucks but, what the hell.  My friend Layla is ALWAYS winning contests.  Me, not so much.  But, it’s that feeling of potential good fortune that I love.

I fell in love with our little bungalow while walking to the first day of school with Leo.  The feeling enveloped me again.  I knew that one day, we would live there.  Eight years later, after the previous owner had raised his family, we did.  It is quite the story, but, we are happy as clams there with its ample open space, closeness to trails and proximity to everything we need.

For over a decade, I practiced yoga by attending group classes, eating up as much mat time among community members as I could get.  Sometimes this got expensive as I was paying over $60 ++ per week on yoga classes.  When my new office was directly above a yoga studio again I felt the Universe providing for me.

I began to toy with the idea of becoming a yoga teacher.  My friend Melanie had gone to the Bahamas to study at the Ashram on Paradise Island.  Over a glass of wine and a hot tub soak after yoga at Daisy’s house, she told us of her experience being immersed in yoga.  Not once did I think I could do something like that. My search for a teacher training continued.  I tried out a lot of scenarios that would fit my family’s lifestyle.  One day, late in the afternoon, Melanie showed up at my office with her bike helmet.  It seems she had forgotten her bicycle after class.  She asked me what I was up to.  I told her I was on the hunt for a good, affordable yoga teacher training.  She said, ‘Why don’t you just go to the same Ashram I went to in the Bahamas?’

There is was again…Melanie forgot her bike after class (who forgets a bike while walking with their helmet tucked under their arm, right?), comes back, recommends this place to me.  The full-body feeling is there…this adventure will happen.  And so it did, twice, in fact!  The story is at this link.  Alas, I didn’t end up maintaining the teaching aspect of my yoga practice.  But, studying yoga in depth was incredible.  I learned that yoga is a lot of things, the least of which is attaining a yoga body and doing poses on a mat.

Said realization led me to the epiphany of the damages of self-loathing due to the pressures on mostly woman to achieve today’s body aesthetic.  That whole body feeling happened when I reached out to find help and it came in the form of a podcast called Life Unrestricted.  Thank you Universe.

Last one for ya…

At a wedding for my niece up in Ontario.  Dean, Leo and I have just driven for two days to Hunstville.  We prepare for an amazing wedding by two foodies where everything is over-the-top wonderful.  We dress and take the bus to the Summit building.  Suddenly I feel my head begin to pound with a headache.  If I don’t get an extra strength something soon, I will have to bow out of the festivities and I really did not want to do that!  You see, I adore dancing and socializing and being with my big fun family.  So, I began to quietly but frantically ask around.  There’s no jumping in a car to get to a drugstore.  Remember, we had bused to a remote area.  No one could help me.  Then my eyes fell on my sister.  I whispered to her that my head was aching and asked if she might have a pill.  She was carrying a tiny little black clutch purse.

She opened the purse.

There was nothing in there. Nada.

Except one little red pill.

An extra-strength pain-killer.  She plucked it out of her clutch purse and happily handed it to me with as much surprise on her expressive face as was on mine.  What possessed her to put one pill in a purse and carry it to the wedding?

There was that feeling again.  Thank you Universe.

universe

(Pictures found in google images…thank you!)

 

Remember to take a moment and leave a comment.  Comments are awesome!

 

*Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
You Can’t Always Get What You Want lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc

My Bad Little Girl Summer 🍿🚬

A bite of scorched popcorn brings to mind the taste of Du Maurier cigarettes smoked the summer I was 8 years old, over four decades ago…

When I was eight years old my brother Mark taught me how to smoke.  He preferred Du Maurier which, at the time, were 75 cents a pack. He even gave me the confidence to buy them. I was to tell the store owner that they were for my Uncle.  Things being the way they were then, this actually worked.  Never mind that I was a little girl and that I was apparently sent to buy cigarettes by a loved uncle.

The other day, forty-four years later, I was biting into scorched popcorn and there it was.  The forgotten taste of Du Maurier and all the memories of my ‘bad little girl’ summer when I tried my best to keep up with two of my older brothers and all of their mischievous adventures.  That was the summer I learned how to lie to Mom and Dad and to be devious.  I was normally a very well behaved child, so this new-found deviousness was a somewhat bitter pill of guilt and subsequent worry.

We would run through the field of long blond hay and go up to the abandoned barn next to our lake-side property where we spent every summer.  There was an ancient hemp rope tied way up in the loft of the barn rafters.  We would swing on that rope and then let go with abandon and tumble into the very dry hay below, our woops mostly held in due to the danger of being found out and sound carrying so well anywhere near the lake.  Going into the barn was trespassing.  We were forbidden by Dad to go there, but, we went there almost every day anyway.  It was fabulously fun and exciting.

Later that summer, a large family arrived to rent #2 cabin for three weeks and we all became friends.  Mark thought Maureen was quite something.  She was very friendly and kind to me even though she was a teenager.  When I told her that Mark liked her, she blushed and lowered her dark lashes and head of shiny hair.  We were swimming at the time and so carried on with our game of back flips in the water.  After that though, suddenly our simple swinging on the hemp rope turned into heated games of ‘spin the bottle’ and ‘strip poker’.

Maureen’s Dad had a pick-up truck and he would take a dozen of us into town to get ice-cream.  Clutching a shiny quarter each, we would stand in the back of the pick-up, the little ones holding tight to the teens while the pick-up would bounce over the camp roads and then onto the highway to Maggie River, two miles away.  Racing down the pretty country road, over the Trouble River bridge, bugs hitting us full tilt, eyes squinted while our hair parted crazily in the whistling wind.  No shoes, no shirt, no hat, no sunglasses, no sunscreen, no cellphone.  It was a carefree time.

At night we would have huge campfires with s’mores (graham crackers, chocolate and browned marshmallows) or we would boil corn and roast wieners on sticks or pop some popcorn, drinking spring water (fetched from the artesian spring down the road) directly from a huge thermos on the picnic table, bending and turning our heads to allow the cool water to splash right into our mouths.  No bottled water.  It wasn’t invented yet.  We would sing all the old songs and there would always be a couple of guitars.  The children would sit on blankets near the fire and the adults would be on the chairs or a stump of wood with a stubby of Molsen Golden. Many times I fell asleep by the campfire and one of my older brothers or sisters would wake me when it was time to go.

We would look up at the night sky to see a gazillion stars twinkling and then a lonesome loon would call on the lake.  In the field the fireflies would flash, lighting our way to our beds. The copious crickets singing us to sleep. It was magical.

On rainy days we would play card games in one of the cabins or, sometimes we would play large games of Monopoly for hours or Rummoli and Euchre.  No screens.  Not a single one there in cottage country, not in 1974.

Other nights we would go around and gather all the kids, a couple of dozen all hailing from different cabins of large families.  Then we would start a game of ‘sardines’.  One kid would run and hide somewhere in the forest of the 20 lake-side acres.  Then we would run around and try to find the hiding person.  We would squish in with him or her, thus: sardines.  Often I would play this game in bare-feet.  My feet were very tough from the weeks of running shoe-less.

Behind all of the fun, that summer, was my guilt at now being a ‘smoker’ with a two-smoke per week habit.  I felt sick about it and just wanted to quit. Thankfully I found quitting a pretty easy task.  I just stopped.  My brother Mark however went on to smoke cigarettes for several decades.  Thankfully he has now joined the ranks of non-smokers.

I don’t blame my brothers for dragging me into their mischief back then.  Again, all this stuff had to happen to get me where I am today, in a happy life with a wonderful, albeit, small, family.  It’s just that sometimes I think back on these things and can barely believe we lived that way.  I haven’t exaggerated it either.  Today we live so differently.  Our controlled, safety-concerned, washed and dried lives of today where we now have to teach our children how to play outside.

Campfire-and-Lake

Let the Games Begin ~ Part 3 🐭🐱

When the cat’s away, the mice shall play

Continued from Let The Games Begin Part 1 and Part 2

Mom and Dad would sometimes go to Florida at Christmas or March Break and would leave us at home with one of the eldest sibs in charge.  One year, my oldest brother Matt was left in charge. He and his new teen-age wife, June took care of we younger ones.  Let’s just say that there were a few parties down the basement and sometimes we had really bad tasting spaghetti sauce, a la June.  One time, June tried to pass off tomato soup as spaghetti sauce.  It was so bad that not even Sammy, our faithful leftover and liver-eating dog, would eat it.  Years later we broke it to her that it was awful.  By then she had become a good cook though, or as her son would say:  Mom’s a good cooker now, eh Dad?

The later years that Mom and Dad went to Florida saw us being taken care of by my second oldest brother, Mark.  It got a little scarier then because Mark had some sketchy friends like Byron Hedgeman and Minty.  Minty seemed fine, if a little dopey, but, Hedgeman just plain scared me.  I think he was continuously high or, in the pursuit of being high.

One time, when I was about eight years old or so, Hedgeman and I were playing a friendly game of checkers in the living room.  Hedgeman was getting very upset because I kept using my kings to jump all his checkers.

He began to ask me about my knowledge of Woodstock.  He had me there.  I had not one idea of what he spoke, and innocently told him that.

woodstock

Hedgeman was irate. How could I not know about Woodstock?

He then proceeded to educate me about it. I was eight. He told me of mass crowds of hippies who traveled for miles and miles to this place called Woodstock for the concert and drugged-out weekend-long bash of history.  He told me of people being so stoned on acid, L.S.D. and mushrooms that they had no idea what they were doing.  He told me of scores of hippies wondering around in the nude with caked-on mud as their only clothes – the farmer’s field had turned to pure mud.

Then he and Mark started to recount all the stories they had ever heard about it.  Mark talked about the bad acid and how there was an announcement made that the brown acid was bad and no one should do it, Man.  I was more than just a little scared after being party to this conversation which Mark and Hedgeman were reveling in the telling of.  I was eight.  I may have mentioned that.

One time Hedgeman actually passed-out underneath Amy’s bed, down the basement.  Mom and Dad were in Cancun but returned a day earlier than planned in order to surprise us.  Matt and June, then married and June pregnant, were asleep in my parents’ bed.  Dad walked in and looked through the house for all of us.  He told Mom that he could smell burning rope coming from downstairs.

He walked into Amy’s basement room.  She was fast asleep.  However, he quickly noticed that there was a pair of Kodiak work boots sticking out from under her bed.  He pulled on them and out slid Hedgeman.  It wasn’t a pretty scene. Hedgeman somehow took off out of the house and down Pearl hill.  Dad called the police and told them,

There’s a hoodlum running down Pearl Street and he’s so stoned he’s stunned!”

One time, Mark and Jobe had a very rowdy party and when they started doing hot knives (smoking hash off of hot knives heated on the stove elements) I called Olive Quinn, one of my Mom’s best friends, and begged her to come and get Luke and I.  It was after midnight but Van Halen’s Running with the Devil was still pounding, at top volume, throughout the house.  The bass on the stereo was turned up to the maximum.

Olive came to fetch us and take us to her house where we stayed in the basement because her husband was a very scary individual and a known bully, even though he was this prominent Catholic and a professional.  The next day, Olive delivered us back to Pearl Street.  I marveled that our six-foot fence that usually surrounded our back yard was now lying down of the grass.

At those times I wished very badly that Mom and Dad had not gone to Florida for Christmas or Spring Break.  At those times I also learned to truly appreciate our normally safe, religious and ordered home.  I don’t think my parents ever had a clue about the types of activities that went down while they were away. Chock it up to the 70s.

Decades later, while telling these stories to my best friend and husband, Dean, he looked me in the eye, took my hand and told me that I had been neglected as a child.

I’ll never forget the dawning realization that yes, that was exactly why some tales of my childhood made me feel so uneasy. Dean and I would NEVER have left our son in situations like that.  Anything could have happened with those weird wired young men who were Mark’s pals back then and who roamed freely through our home while Mom and Dad were away.  Luke and I were lucky to escape with just the psychological scars of being neglected as young children.

To be clear, there were a lot of psychological scars in my family.  It may be one of the main reasons we are all so close as siblings.  We counted on each other to get through tough times.  We cried, we sang and we laughed.  We laughed a lot.

Anyway, Luke and I were sworn to secrecy by Mark and Job lest we die by some tortuous death if we told on them.  Years later we would learn, disturbingly, that Hedgeman had died at Walden’s Royal Victoria Hospital, of AIDS.

 

(Photos and courtesy of Eva Player and google images)

 

img_7050
Martha Valiquette and sister walking on Blue Beach, Nova Scotia 2016

Let the Games Begin ~ Part 2 🍭

I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
~Cat Stevens

Continued from Let the Games Begin Part 1

We moved into our six-bedroom red brick bungalow in Walden, Ontario on Hallowe’en day of 1970.  An auspicious day.  I was four years old and extremely excited!  Our next door neighbours, The MacNeil’s, were a big family of eleven and Ben MacNeil was five years old — a built-in buddy right next door.  And buddies we were.  Within seconds of arriving Ben and I were fast friends and could be seen chasing each other around the outside of our new brick bungalow.  I was gonna like it in this house.

From that moment, Ben and I spent almost every waking minute together.  We played house and school and hide-and-go-seek.  Often, because of the sheer number of kids between our two households, we would have huge games of Red Rover and British Bulldog, or 500-Up in the MacNeils’ huge back yard.  One time, the MacNeils got a new game of Croquet.  We played it non-stop for days.

In the winter we would go sliding on the MacNeils’ very own sliding hill at the back of their house.  It was a perfectly steep hill which led into the parking lot of an eight-story apartment building that we imaginatively called: ‘the apartments’.  Sometimes there would be twenty or more kids out there in the dark, with just the reflection off the snow and a few parking lot lamps to light the path.  At other times it would be just Ben, my younger brother, Luke, and Ben’s two younger siblings.

The MacNeils lived in a mansion.  They had something like ten bedrooms, four bathrooms and a huge recreation room upstairs at the end of the house where parents never ventured.  Their dining room had the longest table in it that I had ever seen.  We would often do our homework at that table.  I would marvel at how neatly Ben did his assignments.  I aspired to be just like him.

There was also a piano in there.  We both took lessons but Ben went a lot farther than I, achieving levels of local celebrity status on piano. Ben’s older brother Noah was an idol of mine.  He always had the most incredible ideas about what we should all do together.  He would make up elaborate games or he would teach us how to be artistic.

Sometimes we would get to play hide-and-go-seek in their house on the second floor and sometimes, when Mrs McNeil wasn’t aware, even in the Attic.  There were secret hiding places and cupboards everywhere.  Ben’s room had a secret room inside his closet.  We spent hours in there.  Their house was so much fun!  During one game, we looked high and low for teen-aged Ethan who would have been the same age as my brother Mark.  No matter what we did, he was nowhere to be found.  Finally, we checked the cupboards that ran along the top of the twelve foot walls in the rec-room.  There he was.  I could never understand how he had managed to get up there.  I was impressed.  Playing with the MacNeils was so much fun!  We would never want to go home at the end of the evening, when it was time.  We would hear Dr. McNeil shout:  ‘It’s time for the Players to go home!”  We would quietly make our way home, back to our boring little bungalow next door.

The MacNeils had a cupboard in their kitchen that was stuffed full of cookies and sugary cereals.  At our house, we had gingersnaps, and that was on a good day, and then only two each and they were never just sitting in the cupboard.  They were hidden.  The cereal choices at our place were simple: puffed wheat, puffed rice or shredded wheat.  Sometimes, if we were good, we got plain Cheerios or Shreddies.

After some of my older brothers and sisters moved out on their own though, the choices got better and they almost always included Shreddies and Cheerios and then CornFlakes! I can still conjure up the feeling of extreme privilege that came along with that cereal. We also got real milk then too. 2%. Prior to that it was skim milk mixed from dry powder (blek!) which later became powdered skim mixed with 2% milk.  When it was just Luke and I at home, Dad started buying homogenized full fat milk. It was like drinking ice-cream.  That was sheer luxury after the watered down and often involuntarily gag-producing taste of powdered skim.  When Eva, Amy and Matt came back home for a supper meal, on occasion, they would comment on how spoiled we were now that we were being fed the higher quality groceries.

Mom bought groceries on a tight budget.  We had simple but good meals.  Things like sausages and tomato sauce, scalloped potatoes, shake-and-bake (the odd time), spaghetti and meat balls on Sunday night, Pate Chinois (pronounced pot-tay sheen-wa), which was my favourite meal) and we always had a green salad with supper, and then after all the plates were nearly licked clean, we were permitted dessert.  Sometimes Dad would still be hungry and would finish off our meals for us.  Other times he would angrily and loudly tell us to Eat Up!

About twice per month, we would have left-overs or home-made soup–basically a huge pot of soup made from everything left in the fridge before the new grocery order was bought.   We fondly referred to it as home-made poop because when you’re a kid, you don’t tend to like things to eat that aren’t completely decipherable.  All we could decipher out of Mom’s soup was a pea here and there and perhaps a piece of carrot.  The rest was left to the imagination.  One time I absolutely refused to eat it and found myself still staring at it, while it congealed and turned cold, at around 7 o’clock that night.

Supper had always started at 5:30 SHARP as soon as Dad walked in the door and sat down at the table, sometimes pounding the table with his fists – an indication of his hunger.

We tried to keep things calm at the supper table. Mom would bounce up and down from her chair getting this and that and, ‘Mom, while you’re up, can you grab me a glass of water?’

Sometimes Dad would tell stories about Schollard Hall and put on his falsetto voice imitating one of his teachers.  We would all laugh.  Usually our meals were not calm though, someone would spill a glass of milk.  Then Dad would pound the table and shaking his head and shout:

I HAD NO BREAKFAST,

A LOUSY LUNCH,

AND NOW I CAN’T EVEN EAT MY SON-OF-A-BITCH-OF-A DINNER!

The MacNeils had their groceries DELIVERED from IGA on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes I would witness the arrival of the grocery truck backing up to the MacNeils kitchen door.  I had never seen so many boxes of great food in my life.  They even had a freezer full of fudgsicles and they didn’t even have to ask before having one.

In our house the groceries were pretty strictly rationed out.  Cookies and other goodies were hidden away in special places that only Mom could find.  Sometimes she’s hide something so well that even she couldn’t find it!

At Christmas time we had special food in the house.  We always got a crate of tangerines.  They were the really sweet ones all individually wrapped in purple tissue paper.  Mom would keep the carton under the couch.  She was pretty generous with them compared to other stuff.  We would also have a pound of real butter.  Mom would buy two pounds, one for shortbread cookies and the other for us to have with turkey dinner.  Wow it was good compared to the bright yellow margarine that came wrapped in waxed paper.

charlie brown

Christmas was great when Mom and Dad didn’t go to Florida.  Mom always bought us a huge jigsaw puzzle to work on as a family under the Christmas tree.  I’ll always remember how much I enjoyed that.  We would also sing Christmas carols and play all kinds of board games during the holidays.  Of course, most of the time, during the day, we would be outside in the snow or on the rink in the back yard.  Often the door was locked and we were forced to stay outside and make our own fun for two hours or so.

There were always so many kids roaming around, it was easy to find something fun to do — climbing the snowbanks, rolling or sliding down hills, making a snowman or a snow-cave.  In all those years though, I can not remember one adult being outside with us to play.  We were completely unsupervised and it was only if we were bleeding or on fire that we would venture home to Mom who would take us in her arms and help us with our troubles.

Continued at Let The Games Begin Part 3

Barefoot Heathens 👣

A sunny day and a barefoot walk with my big brother turns into a horrible memory…

Many long sunny days during our summers at the lake, we would walk the two miles to the nearby town of Magnetawan, population 300 souls, just for something different to do.  Sometimes I would be with a friend staying in the camp.  Other times I would be with a brother, or two.  On this particular day, I was with my older brother, closest to me in age: Jobe.

We were walking along on that hot summer day in the 70s.  We each had a dollar to spend in town and we were feeling rather rich.  We were discussing what we could do with that money. Would it be spent on fries and a pop at July’s or a vachon, black balls and chocolate milk at Jake’s General Store?  July’s and Jake’s shared side-by-side real estate in the village of Mag and each backed onto a grassy patch which sloped down to Ahmic Lake which was really Mag River extended after the locks system.

general storeBoth July’s and Jake’s were tired, dusty and faded.  Their respective owners, July and Jake, had since thrown up their hands to the bygone dreams of business greatness.  (A few decades later, both buildings would burn to the ground in an unsolved tragedy that would rock the core of the wee village, one which still wondered at the loss by fire of their once proud Marina.)

The Tuck Stop didn’t mind.  Even Seniors were ordering take-out these days and pulling up a bench seat at a red wooden picnic table in order to enjoy their chicken fingers and fries with a cold coke sipped by straw.  For Jobe and I, our favourite was the foot-long hot dog.  We just could not believe that a hot dog could be that long.  We marveled at it each time it arrived in front of us.  It was especially good when washed down with a thick sweet chocolate milk-shake.

So, on this particular day, with nary a water bottle nor a hat and never ‘sunscreen’ (what was that?) Jobe said, ‘hey Morg, let’s walk the whole way to town up on the rocks!’ Jobe loved a physical challenge.  I guess I did too.  Up we scrambled onto the hot, dark rocks which had been cut to form the roadway.  We carried on walking, sometimes skipping from one outcrop to the next.  Jobe was way ahead of me, as usual.  He was faster, more daring and more physically efficient in every way.

road and rockAs I walked along the rocks, a bothersome horsefly bobbed around my head, crashing into my tanned forehead every few steps.  Looking up to see Jobe’s red head bobbing up and down ahead of me, I suddenly realized that there was a warm sensation coming from the bottom of my right foot.  ‘What the…?’  I reached down and my hand came back to me covered in blood.  The tears burst from my eyes as I screamed for Jobe.

With wild, frightened green eyes Jobe arrived by my side and knew instantly that I had trod on a piece of broken glass.  He found the piece a second later.  It was a nasty jagged stalagmite of broken beer-bottle glass and it was covered in my blood.  Jobe half carried me for about ten minutes to the closest cottage where he pounded on the door and asked for help.

The nice lady who came to the door took me to her pure white porcelain tub and quite tenderly washed my gash of blood.  She soothed me with sweet mutterings while she ensured there was no glass left inside the wound.  I was silently crying and worried. Next she sat me down on a kitchen chair and expertly bandaged my foot with a gauze.  She used a lot of gauze.  A whole roll.  She knew exactly what she was doing.  Then she drove us back to the camp and made sure Dad received us before she left.  Dad had a quick conversation with her, thanked her profusely and got the details of the unfortunate occurrence.

Dad closed the door of the office and turned around to stare us down with the look of thunder on his face.  He was not happy.

Morgan, why didn’t you have shoes on while walking to town?  FROM NOW ON, YOU WILL ALWAYS WEAR SHOES WHEN WALKING TO TOWN.  IS THAT CLEAR?! he bellowed.  ‘THAT WOMAN IS A COMPETITOR OF OURS.  DID YOU TWO KNOW THAT?’

We both shook our heads vehemently, but, we DID know that.  He was always talking about our competitors.  How many campers they had compared to us, and so on, endlessly.

campground

‘NOW SHE THINKS WE ARE BAREFOOT HEATHENS!’ he yelled.  ‘SHE’LL SPREAD IT ALL OVER THE LAKE THAT WE CAN’T EVEN AFFORD SHOES!’  He was livid. His face was purple.

At this point, Jobe escaped out the screen door and all I heard was the wap! as it hit the frame – his red noggin’ bouncing up and down as he diminished down the trail to the shop then hard right passed the Patterson’s tent trailer and gone up into the camp, likely to find Mom and our baby brother Luke and tell them the story.

Next, Dad grabbed my skinny arm roughly with his huge hand.  I was just seven years old and tiny and he was a behemoth.  And Mad.  He spanked me hard several times with his open hand which hit my bare legs and stung very badly.  It hurt a lot and I quietly bawled and bawled, but what hurt even worse was the betrayal I felt.  He was the guy who was supposed to protect me.  I didn’t think it was fair to receive a beating when I was already injured but, I didn’t say a word.  That would have been certain death.

He told me to get in the car and off we went to the medical clinic in Burks Falls, 20 miles away.  I needed stitches and a tetanus shot.  So much for a vachon and coke.

This day was horrible and getting worse by the minute.  The aftermath of the cut foot was ten days of no swimming.  Was I miserable?!  I always wore my shoes to town after that one.  Probably didn’t need the beating because the no swimming was punishment enough.

Usually natural consequences work best, I find.

But, what I am still confused about when I remember this, even though it happened to me decades ago, is just how much Dad over-reacted, in a bad way, to my cut foot.  Perhaps he was having an awful day and this was just one more hassle to deal with.

But, it was me.

His good little girl.

I was hurt and scared and needed a hug.  I can’t imagine beating my child who came home to me with a cut foot. It’s like kicking someone when they’re down.  Who does that?

So,

I am gonna re-write the last bit…bear with me…

…Dad closed the door of the office and turned around to look at Jobe and I with a soft worried look on his face.  He gathered both of our small bodies to his chest with his big strong arms.  He kissed our curly heads, mine dark, Jobe’s ginger.  He told us not to worry.  He was going to fix all this.

‘Get in the car you two.  First it’s stitches for Morg, then it’s ice-cream.’

We smiled at our Dad who was always so good to us and fixed all our mistakes, or tried to anyway.  In town, we picked out a sweet thank you card for the lady who helped me and after ice-cream we brought it to her door to thank her in person.

Even though I couldn’t swim for ten days, Dad took me fishing and we had so much fun.

fishing with Dad

If you have any comments, I would love to read them.

~Mmv

Cuatro a Cuba 🇨🇺

With the goal of getting back into World Travel now that our wee one is taller than us, we start with the sweet country of Cuba…

With our 18-year old son, Leo, having just finished up his first term of University, and his buddy, Reid, we decided to take a 12-day trip to Cuba…a non-resort trip…not exactly as strenuous as a ‘back-packing’ trip, per se, but a non-resort moving around trip none the less.  And, all in all, it was a fine adventure to finish off 2017 in a unique fashion.  Dean and I were also celebrating 25 years married and we wanted to do something special for the occasion.

We arrived in Havana in mid-December and made a bee-line first to the cadeca to change money, then to the tienda for a cold one each.  We had arranged a driver to take us to our place in Vedado, a trendy area of the city but, he was familiar with ‘Cuba Time’ and had no trouble just chilling until the four of us quenched our thirst after a long, rather sparse flight.  Don’t get me going but what the devil has happened to flights theses days?…I had told the boys of the days of unlimited free boozy drinks on flights and a full hot meal preceded by a warm towel for your face, neck and hands, blankets and pillows and head-sets handed to each traveler.  What the heck happened???  Now we couldn’t even check a bag for free.  The four of us went with carry-on only and had had our sun-screen confiscated at security.  Let’s just read that line again…our sun-screen was confiscated at security.  Why?  Well, it seems since 9 – 11, sun-screen in any family-size container, is a security breech.

I digress.

Our driver happily helped us into his vintage car and off we rolled to our apartment.  Along the way, in a combination of broken English, Spanglish, gesture and sound effects, he told us about the area and his family.  It seemed that he was a nearly pro ping-ponger with four babies (who were now adults) and then we rolled passed the Mental Health Hospital and he put two bent fingers to his right temple and made a creaking sound while moving his fingers back and forth and rolling his eyes.  Ooookay.  Meanwhile, in his back seat sits me with Bipolar1.  I didn’t let on.

Our apartment was ideal and in good proximity to a landmark that we all wanted to check out.  The Nacional Hotel.  It seemed fitting to have our first mojito of the trip there. National Hotel

The bartender happened to be our landlord, so he treated us to a Cubata cocktail as well and a couple of fine cigars for the lads.  His protege was quite a nice-looking guy, very photogenic, and he was fine with me snapping his picture.

Cuban

From there, we walked along the sea wall and marveled at the warm air.walking in Havana with J

It was getting dark and would soon be time to find a place to eat.  We asked a young person who seemed to know some English.  He told us to try Bicky’s and he drew us a little map.  We walked the darkened streets with nary a flat sidewalk and several random ankle-busting holes as well as piles of dog doo and other garbage.  We found it, though.  Its neon-lighted sign beckoning like a lighthouse over choppy seas.  It was an Italian place and we were seated on the balcony.  The place was packed and we got the last table.  When my food arrived, it didn’t look like much: penne pasta in a cream sauce.  Oh my.  It was fabulous.  All of us were happy with our food, but mine was outstanding.  I could barely speak due to my tongue being in love with the taste.  A nice omen of our meals to come.

The next morning, the Senorita arrived to cook us breakfast and we had fun trying to understand each other.  She had not a word of English and would just raise the volume of her Spanish to make us understand.  Luckily, my previous study on duolingo and our old phrase book which we had used in Central America  when Leo was four helped. As well, I employed a healthy and hilarious amount of gesture which I was comfortable with since learning conversational American Sign Language when Leo was a baby. I taught her how to do eggs ‘over-easy’ using my hand as the spatula in my gesticulating.  We had wonderful foods for breakfast: fresh tropical fruit, coffee, toast, eggs, freshly made tropical juices.  Wonderful.

Off we went to walk to the book store which was a couple of miles away in a quiet part of the city.  We walked past many pastel-coloured stucco homes, newly painted with groomed yards and straight fences, often directly beside a very old, grey and crumbling crooked house.  It was odd and interesting.  When we got to Cuba Libro the bookstore, LA HABANA-COMIENZA LA XXV FERIA INTERNACIONAL DEL LIBRO, CUBA 20we were amazed at the wonderful books as well as other offerings there: cookies, coffee and a clean bathroom. It is owned by an expat and has a lively community following with various clubs meeting there and tours too. The lovely server told us how to get a car to take us to Old Havana and so next we were climbing into a red 51 Chevy with clear vinyl covered leather seats.  It was mint.cuban taxi

Because we so enjoyed this man, with no English but a lovely manner, we negotiated with him for the 4.5 hour ride to Trinidad de Cuba for the next morning.  Then we walked around seeing the sights of Old Havana and drinking in the ancient feel of the place.

yellow wall laneIt was commonplace to hear and see vendors yelling and selling their wares which ranged from brooms (which I REALLY wanted – joking) to lettuce (which I also REALLY wanted) to baked crackers and pastries, even home-made ice-cream and shaved meat sandwiches were being sold but the sandwich maker was without gloves and my Western sensibilities would not allow us to avail of them.  I was quite intrigued with the cart of lettuce, and other veggies.  It looked so good and yummy.

cart of lettuce

Our ride to Trinidad (well, Boca actually which is just south of Trinidad) was uneventful except for many bumps due to the non-existent shocks on the 51 Chevy. There were very few vehicles on the highway but we would see horse and buggy from time to time, many sugar-cane fields and not a single fast-food place like there are along our highways.  We stopped about half-way for a bano break and the boys had a quick sandwich.  When we arrived, the taxi-driver asked at several doors to find us a place to stay.  We wanted two rooms with their own bathrooms.  We found them and we met an east-coaster named Erika who was quite eager to get to know us and to talk a blue streak.  While the Senora of the Casa made us a roast chicken lunch, we went swimming in the bay across from our rooms.  Erika came along and continued to ask intriguing questions and I found myself filling her in on our previous travels because she was very interested.

After a fine lunch, we grabbed a taxi to the big beach, Playa Ancon, and had a very sweet time throwing frisbee,

IMG_0647 walking down the beach and when Senor came along to ask if we wanted a drink, I sprung for mojitos for all (perhaps a wee bit extravagant but, sometimes that’s just the way it goes).

img_0534.jpgWhen the sun began to go down we grabbed the last taxi for the 10k back to La Boca and sat on the front porch. Next, there was a bit of a sing-song, as it turned out that Erika could sing beautifully with a rich voice and was very talented on guitar.  She had won an East Coast Music Award and such. http://erikakulnys.com/

Later, all the young folk went off to the Salsa House in Trinidad for a wild time.  We heard them getting in a few hours later and it sounded like they were going to have some stories for us in the morning.  Which they did…along the lines of how much rum one can drink before feeling rather sick…and such.  And, they enjoyed dancing their legs off!

We spent the days either on the beach at Playa Ancon,

IMG_0613

or walking around Trinidad IMG_0600

or hiking in the hills and swimming in small pools near the water falls.

IMG_0558

IMG_0582

Leo jumped in from a high ledge and it was really cool.  I should comment that the second hike was very hard.  Walking way down, down, down to get to this pool and waterfall and then up, up, UP to get back to the top where our loyal taxi-driver waited.  My heart nearly burst.  I couldn’t remember a more challenging hike, even when we trekked for 30 days in Nepal…I had been a lot younger then.  That could account for it, I guess.  waterfallOne very good aspect though was that Dean surprised me with a lovely ring for our 25th anniversary, as we sat watching the boys by the waterfall.  Doesn’t get any better than that, in my world.

We also ate a lot of really good food in many different establishments.  Our Trinidad host, Rebeca, was so sweet to us too. She made us an elaborate breakfast each morning which included tropical fruit and juices, fresh-baked pie and pastries, omelettes, coffee with hot milk and chocolate.  She would hug and kiss us regularly, in keeping with her affectionate culture and because we would smile and she could see that we were content.  One morning she had Reid in a tight squeeze to her ample breasts.  He surfaced saying he thought that was called ‘a motorboat’.  We laughed. We breakfasted on her upper terrace and she went up and down the stairs at least a dozen times for us and not allowing us to help. Her granddaughter stole my heart and I gave her little gifts. To return the favour to us, Rebeca gave us a flask of Havana Club and a bottle of red wine.  These would have cost her a heck of a lot and were very generous gifts.

In Trinidad, the boys went to the Iberostar Hotel a few times in order to avail themselves of wifi.  It wasn’t free but nor was it too expensive.  There was also a pool table there which they were able to use a few times.  They would also have a cappuccino or a beer while they got their fill of social media and connecting with loved ones back home.

In the blink of an eye, it was time to head back to Havana to prepare for our journey home to Canada.  Rebeca’s son would take us back to the big city.  Without a word of English, we made our way with him.  He was quite a good driver.  He charged us a very fair rate for the trip.  No English but a lovely persona and a big, quick smile.  If you ever go to Trinidad de Cuba and need a place to stay, have the taxi take you to Casa Rebeca on Cienfuegos.  Highly recommend!

Back in Havana, we found rooms in Centro, just outside of Old Havana.  The landlady was a hurdle and it was apparent that she was a money grabbing opportunist behind her big fake smile.  Can’t have the good ones every time, I guess.  We walked the streets and looked at art, tasted various beers, Dean got a hair cut, and we tried a variety of restaurants and then it was time to grab a taxi to the airport.

Adios Cuba.  Until next time.IMG_0442

He Sails Away ⛵️

My son and his shipmates walked down the plank and aboard the ship as the Indigenous girl sang a sweet sad song of good-bye. As she beat her skin drum the tears streamed down my face. ‘Come home to us’, I prayed.

Here is the story of my son’s crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on a Tall Ship, The Gulden Leeuw (as pictured above. Photo courtesy of Google Images).  My husband, Dean, and I were ever so proud that Leo was selected to go on the ship, but I was also terrified of the whole idea.  Anything could happen while crossing the North Atlantic — it was not to be trifled with.  I was having out-of-body experiences as I imagined some of the more horrible possibilities, but, strangely, I was also very eager for him to be out there and experiencing it.  ‘He will be fine,’ I was told.  ‘That ship crosses the Atlantic all the time.’  They said.  ‘The Captain will ensure that all is well.’  Meanwhile, my eyebrows moved higher and ever higher up my forehead.  It sounds like I am foreshadowing that something bad would happen.  Well, there was one big storm in which Leo told us about working in the galley with smashing dishes and flying carrots (yes, carrots), but other than some foggy days and cool temperatures, all went smoothly on the Golden Love, which is how I renamed the ship in my mind.

The morning they cast off, they smudged all present with smoking sage.  A well-loved Mi’kmaq Chief approached me and with both hands holding the smudging bowl, kindly offered me the cleansing smoke.  I reached out hungrily and pulled it over me.  ‘This will help keep him safe, right?’  I thought. Blessings were bestowed by several Chiefs and Elders and best wishes were wished.  We were asked to go around the crowd and ensure that every one of the 45 participants were given a hug by someone so that they understood how much we love and cherish them.  It was unbelievably touching.  But, I continued to check in with myself that this was my son who we were sending off.  This was my only, cherished son who was about to sail away ACROSS THE NORTH ATLANTIC.  Was I crazy??!  Seems that way.

The time came for Leo and his shipmates to walk down the plank and to board the ship.  An Indigenous girl sang a hauntingly sweet sad song of good-bye. As she beat her skin drum the tears streamed down my face. ‘Come home to us’, I prayed.

***

So, here is Leo’s story in a paper for school regarding types of tourism and, in it, he captures the magnitude of the adventure that he successfully undertook. My first guest-writer:

This summer I was involved in a travel project entitled Msit No’Kmaq: All My Relations. It was a travel experience that I applied for in which 45 aboriginal youth sailed across the Atlantic on a tall ship, while being involved in a rigorous sail training program. This crossing took place because of the vessel’s participation in a tall ship race, in which 11 ships race from Halifax to France. A laid-back vacation this was not, as it more closely resembled a work placement at sea, and it involved some of the hardest manual labour to which I have been exposed. I am certainly not complaining, as it was clearly the best and most rewarding trip I have been on.

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The goal of the project was to transform the rag tag group of trainees into a somewhat coherent crew, and this was accomplished by putting us to work during daily “watches,” where that segment of the group would be responsible for running the ship. I absolutely loved it. I can admit that hard manual labour has never really appealed to me, and my work ethic when tackling work like that is not ideal. However, the work on the ship was certainly an exception. Although it is hard work, it is so rewarding in the way that you can immediately see the difference your hard work has made towards the betterment of the vessel or the race. In particular, I loved climbing aloft. While once again hard work, the excitement of being so high above everything really augments any feelings of boredom or longing for leisure into something closer to fulfilment and completeness. You look down to see the ship charging through the wake some 100+ feet below you as you hang on for dear life while tightly wrapping the t’gallant in gaskets.  The intense heeling of the ship interrupted with violent shaking as she smashes through waves ensures that relaxation is never achieved. But relaxation is not the goal while aloft, even if your aching muscles scream that your bunk is more comfortable. The adrenaline is ever present, even when completing such a mundane task as furling a sail.

Aloft

Although deep internal reflection sessions while staring into nothingness were never accomplished by me, I learned a great deal about myself during this crossing, and I think some personal development did indeed take place. The nature of living on a tall ship is conducive to reflective thought, the kind that makes you question the path you’ve set for yourself in life. Sailing is one of those pure pursuits. One of those passions that is enticing and exciting in its infancy, amazing and beautiful in its mastery. I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed both ends of the spectrum of sailing while on this voyage. You have the trainees, young men and woman who are taking a leap of faith and trying something completely outside their comfort zone. The beginning of our journey as sailors was raw and unkempt. We threw ourselves into the work and hoped something good would come from it, and of course it did. We kept that ship moving in the right direction, and kept our minds on the right path. We became more and more knowledgeable, skilled, and eager. The thirst for adventure propelled us to reach new heights (literally). On the other hand, there was the crew and captain. Experienced sailors, but many not so experienced at dealing with youth. Experienced or not, they were incredible. The patience, excitement for seeing us learn and grow, the humour, and the deft skill at motivation was beyond anything we could have hoped for. They really made the experience as fantastic as it was. All those pieces fit into the puzzle that made me question what I want out of life. I can say with some certainty that the most important thing I learned about myself is that I want to sail again.  I want to be around the incredible and genuine characters that sailing attracts, and I aspire to someday be one of those characters myself.

As this was a trip for indigenous people, there were some cross-cultural difficulties that came up between crew and trainees. There were some instances when crew accidentally said something offensive or derogatory, but I was very impressed by the common understanding of everyone onboard. People were not quick to judge each other, and understood that the vast cultural differences between many people onboard were likely to result in some uncomfortable moments. It was all handled very maturely. There were also cultural differences among the trainees. Some, like me, didn’t really grow up ensconced in their native culture, and many did. I really learned that I haven’t grown up with my indigenous culture nearly as much as I’d like. That was something largely outside of my control, but it still stings. Being a part of this project has really made me appreciate the rich history that I share with these amazing people, while also helping me fill many of the gaps in my knowledge that are present because of my upbringing. I feel proud to be a part of such an incredible people, whose population has had such a rough go. It prides me to see that so many Indigenous young people are so successful.

The destinations we toured were Falmouth and Alderney, UK, plus Le Havre, France and Paris. I can say with near complete certainty that Alderney is the best place I have ever been. If I was asked to sum it up in one word it would be “authentic.” The people, the geography, the history, even the other tourists there were a breath of fresh air. It is a small island in the English Channel, just off France. With a population of only 2,000, the island has a distinct small-town feel. I have never observed a more impressive group of tourists than I saw on the island of Alderney. Because it lacks a major airport of any kind, most people who come to Alderney are sailboat owners. The demographic who sails their own boat through the English Channel are a completely different type of people than a crowd fresh off a cruise ship, or even a passenger plane. I can recount with great fondness interactions with locals and other tourists and remember always enjoying the conversation. Real, genuine people.

Alderney Island biking

I think this relates to some concepts  especially the allocentric/psychocentric disparity, as well as respecting the wishes of locals and tourism. Alderney is pushing for higher levels of tourism, and I have to wonder if the locals will be happy if many more people start flooding the gates. The laid-back atmosphere may be lost, which is part of the reason I loved it so much. I can also speak to the presence of attractions as well as hidden gems, and I can say with certainty that I experienced them both.

Ship in harbour

Of all the travelling I have done, this trip made me feel the least like a conventional tourist. I think that was due to our rather interesting story and mode of transportation, and the immediate excitement and intrigue locals showed when they learned we had just sailed the Atlantic. That feeling of respect was new, and responsible for a completely different travel experience. A generalization I can make from that experience is that the way you arrive to a new spot is somewhat responsible for the way you feel about your time there. I saw many different demographics of tourists during my time abroad, and I can say that the more allocentric crowd really appeals to me over the psychocentric. There just seems to be a greater feeling of authenticity, a feeling that I strive to exhibit myself.

Jaden on the wall

He Grows Up 💕

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” —Mark Twain.

pregnant in N Carolina
Leo-In-Belly at the Outer Banks, NC. A fun weekend with Nancy and Family.

My baby, the one who arrived in a maelstrom back in 1999, well, he is now a tall young man.  Intelligent, kind, fun-loving, adventurous, athletic and handsome. (But, this is his mother writing.  What else would I say?)

He is finished high-school and getting set to go off on a huge adventure and then to University.  I have five weeks left with him before he departs.  My heart is breaking and I am tearful, scared and joyful all at the same time.  I never thought I would be this way, but, then again, I never thought I would be in a straitjacket in D.C. either.  That’s life, right?!  It sneaks up on you and BAM!

Your son, your only, is leaving for University.

But, what about that big adventure you ask?  Leo applied and was picked to be one of forty-five youth to assist as crew on a tall ship from Halifax to France.  Yes, that’s right. Across the Atlantic. Thankfully, there is a professional crew as well and they will be teaching the youth the ropes, literally.  They will do duties:  watch, galley, cleaning and maintenance duties.  I am sure there will be lots of time for fun too.  They will dock in Le Havre in Normandy France and spend five days in France before flying home to Canada at the end of August.

About ten days later, Leo will leave our house for University.

WHAT??  

Already?

What happened to the days of Buzz Lightyear?  Or the days of hiking, just me and small him and the dogs in the parks, on the beaches, up the hills?  The days where every playground became a wealth of potential fun and that he would point at and cry hopefully, “Can I play in the playground, Mom?” and inevitably exclaim: “Mom, I’m having SO fun!!

The holding of my hand. His, so small and soft and warm.  The moments of insecurity when he was a toddler and would wrap himself around one or both of my legs as I stood in conversation with someone. The morning greeting, “It’s morning time, Mom!” The sleepy, cuddly story-times, sweaty fevers, rosy-cheeked kisses and all the stuff we learned together.  The tears are streaming as I ask, “Where did the time go? and WHY does this hurt so bad??!”

hiking on Wolfville trails, from our door

Oh dear, did I spend enough time with him?  Did I do enough for him?  Did I help to shape a good young man?  Will he find his way?  Will he find a love?  Will he miss me?

He wrote his last exam of high-school today and had arranged with two good buddies to go camping in New Brunswick at Fundy National Park.  Both my husband Dean and I were home for lunch (we come home every day for lunch due to our Simple East-Coast Life) and so we witnessed the flurry of activity in getting ready for the big out-trip.

Leo was walking back and forth to his room grabbing all that he could imagine needing for the trip.  Meanwhile, I set up a sandwich-building smorgasbord on the kitchen island with large slices of buttered Italian bread, sliced cheese and tomato, ham, bologna, bacon, mustard, mayo, and lettuce fresh and green from the garden.  While Leo ran around, I invited the two buds to build their sandwiches and dig in.  I wouldn’t want to see them on their way without a good lunch.

The curious thing happened.  While Leo ran around, his two friends and I had a nice little visit in the kitchen.  Mainly talking about some hiking memories that Dean and I made at Fundy National Park while going Across Canada in Betsy (age 26) 🇨🇦 and then about their plans for the fall. Leo came out to the kitchen and snagged the last two slices of bacon for his sandwich, which I then volunteered to build for him, as I could see he wasn’t even close to being packed and ready yet.

Just then, we realized that Leo’s phone was vibrating on the corner cupboard. Leo looked at it, then reached for it.  From where I stood, I noticed that his hand was slightly shaking as he reached for his phone.  My heart caught in my chest to see that hand, the very one I knew so well and had held time and again…shaking. Looking at the display, he said, “Dad, this is the call about the summer job.”  When he looked up, there was a nervous strain on his face that instantly caused an anxious reaction within me.  You see, Leo is a very laid-back kinda guy as is evidenced here.

Cape Split nap
Napping at Cape Split, NS

Almost nothing phases him.  But, I had to remind myself to take stock:  he just wrote an exam, the last of his high-school career;  a couple of nights ago, he found out he was selected for the Tall Ship experience to cross the Atlantic; there was a summer job being negotiated; friends were waiting for him for a couple day out-trip; Prom in a few days; he would be leaving for University in late August and he hadn’t even eaten lunch yet.  So, perhaps a slight tremor of the hand and bit of a strain on the face is understandable. Regardless, the reaction within me was hard to deny.  All I wanted to do was make it better.  Take away his strain and nerves.  Jeepers.  I’m gonna need to chill.

Prom was fantastic and the prom parade went off without a ‘hitch’ and is featured in this little video:

When we first moved to Halifax, we lost a second-trimester pregnancy, Leo’s little brother, and it was heartbreaking.  So…I am really hoping that the ‘loss’ of Leo to the great wide world (although surely tough on me) will be wonderful.  That we shall see him spread his wings and soar through life, having adventures, doing good and following his dreams….TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

(Photos by the author)

TO INFINITY…AND BEYOND! 💥

My son, Leo’s favourite toy of all time was Buzz Lightyear, the action figure who emerged from the 1995 block buster movie Toy Story.  He wanted the action figure very badly.  We would make special trips to the toy store just to look at them and imagine owning one.  The weird thing was that we had more than enough money to buy one but, at the time, I just didn’t think it would be good for Leo to have everything he wanted. The Buzz Lightyear action figures were retailing for about $75 plus tax, at the time.  I thought that it would be too much to just go ahead and buy him one.  Don’t worry, Leo didn’t want for much.  He had a lot of toys and his own room with a double bed, a hand-made quilt with a space theme from two of his Aunts in Newfoundland, and, he had me all to himself as I was a full-time stay-home mom for his first five years.  He was much loved.  I just didn’t want to spoil him.  There’s a fine line.

BuzzOne day, Auntie Bonnie came to visit and we decided to head to Kitchener for the day and go thrift shopping at Value Village and then have lunch.  Thrift shopping is so much fun.  The thrill of the hunt for something of great value at a low, low price.

We were wheeling our way around the store.  Leo was getting a ride in the cart and as I say, we were just getting warmed up when…low and behold, on a shelf with many other toys…there was…

NONE OTHER THAN…

CAN YOU GUESS???

YES!

BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!!!  The one and only.  And the exact size of the ones he had seen at the toy store.

Suddenly, everything slowed waaaaaay down.  There were a few other people in the same aisle. If you can believe it, there was a boy closing in on the same area where we were.  The boy was looking at Buzz.  My hand was reaching.  His hand was reaching.  I didn’t want to muscle a toy away from someone much, much smaller than I, but then…

the boy reached for the frisbee instead. Whew!

My hand grasped the cool hard plastic of the toy’s mid-section.  I held him up.  He was perfect, except that someone else had loved him quite well before. It was obvious. Because he was missing a boot.

Leo didn’t care.  He grasped Buzz and hugged him tight.  ‘My own Buzz, Mommy?’ he asked.  ‘Yes, sweetheart, your own Buzz.’  He was one happy little gaffer that day.

Buzz did not leave Leo’s chubby fingers for days.  It was as if he was glued there. If someone asked about the missing boot, he simply explained that Buzz had lost a boot on a dangerous space mission and then he would hold Buzz tight and sail him over his head with a sonic whooshing sound, ‘To infinity and beyond!’

One day, Leo was running in our house on the ceramic tile and took a spill.  There went Buzz, flying across the room and smashing on the tile.  When Leo retrieved him, he was missing an arm.

I did a bit of research and found out that the Disney Thinkway Toy Company had an office located in Markham, Ontario which was just around the corner form Dean’s office at IBM.  I called the company and explained that we needed some repairs done on a very much loved Buzz Lightyear toy. They said to simply bring it in and leave it with them for about ten days.  They would see what they could do.  We explained to Leo that Buzz had to go in for repairs.  After awhile, Leo understood and said goodbye to Buzz.

The next day, just before they closed, Dean walked into the Disney Thinkway office with the old Buzz.  The man behind the counter said, ‘You must be the people who called about repairs to an older Buzz Lightyear.’  Dean nodded and held up Leo’s Buzz.  The man nodded knowingly, seeing the missing boot and missing arm.  He then said, ‘I told my boss about your wife’s call and how your son loves Buzz so much,’…the man then reached under the counter and handed a shiny brand new Buzz to Dean.  No charge, as long as they could have the old toy to study.  Dean gladly surrendered old Buzz.

Leo awoke in the morning with the shiny new Buzz beside him. You never saw such a happy youngster. Not wanting to run with Buzz anymore, he shuffled into our room and sang out, ‘it’s morning time Mom and guess what?  Buzz is all fixed up!’

buzz2
Leo’s drawing of Buzz Lightyear.  Age 5.