The Surprising Shiatsu Massage Miracle Worker Guy (1997)

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.

High School Out Trip🛶🏕 (1984)

In Grade 12, there was this out trip that we all participated in.  It was a several day canoe and portage adventure trip up in Killarney National Park and it was meant to be a fun, team-building, learning experience.  It was also somewhat of a survival experience and, for me, a challenge to remain positive and friendly no matter what the weather was doing.

The preparatory meetings began.  ‘All grade 12s going on the Out Trip with Mrs Ducky, report to classroom 105 for a planning meeting’.  All of us gathered from the four corners of the school.  We found a seat and glanced around.  The atmosphere in the room was palpable with hormones, comparisons and expectation of fun to come.  Mrs Ducky ensured that each of the forty or so of us made contributions to the planning.  What needs to be packed.  How to pack it (in plastic bags just in case it rains).  What to expect (an arduous journey) and the timings and itinerary for the trip, including car pooling and who would be in each canoe.

When we finally got up to Killarney National Park, we were ready for the adventure ahead.  We piled into our crafts and were told to stick together, lest we get lost.  Mrs Ducky and Mr Watson should remain within site, they told us.  It was huge water surrounded by vast wilderness and craggy rocks and with many inexperienced canoeists, anything could happen.

Poor Sue (the same guy from ‘Fun and Foibles At The Camp‘ went in the drink just off shore.) He was with a couple of classmates who didn’t know how to balance the canoe while trying to switch places.  Over they went. Sue’s sleeping bag remained wet for the whole trip.  Gotta ask yourself, ‘What happened to the plastic bag for it, Sue?’  Years later Sue joined the Army.  He learned a ton about survival and staying dry then.

Anyway, the trip was magical.  We canoed, we raced, we sang, we splashed and we teased each other.  Sue even demonstrated gunnel-bobbing just off shore of one of our sites.  At times it rained horribly and at times the sun peaked out to shine on the motley, rag tag crew that we were.  We had several portages that we would tell each other was, ‘only five football fields long’ – helping mentally to push through it and get ‘er done.

One day, while making lunch for the group, Mrs Ducky squealed at Mike to stop eating the bread rolls.  He looked up with cheeks stuffed full like a chipmunk and pointing a sausage-shaped finger at his chest tried to say, “Who me?”  Those in ear-shot giggled at this even though it would mean we would be short for supper.  The food was strictly rationed and Mike was this lumbering, big guy with fuzzy black hair and so funny.

At another site that lent itself to bathing, a few of us actually went for a swim and washed our hair.  I was one of them, being so used to this kind of thing at the camp all my life.  The water was so pure and clean and felt like silk as I dove in.  The water in the lakes up there in Northern Ontario parks was so pure in those days (1985) that for drinking water, we were all instructed to bring a melmac or metal mug on a carabiner that should be hooked to our waistband.  With it, we would simply scoop water out of the lake and drink it down as we paddled, or at any time on the trip.  No bottled water.  No tanks of water.  No filter, pump or drops. Just lake water.  No one got sick.

A few of my classmates were quite miserable on this trip and I felt badly for them.  They didn’t have the experience in nature that I had been so fortunate to have.  They didn’t want to squat in the woods or to walk barefoot into the water or sleep with camp-fire smoked hair.  It was a foreign place, nature.  They were home-sick.

loon

On the other hand, It was bizarre how much I enjoyed the whole experience and again reveled in the physical outdoor challenge: loving the sights especially the starry sky or a glassy-calm lake; the sounds like the lonesome, haunting call of the loon and smells of nature like of fallen pine needles under foot on a forest trail.  I ate it all up and reveled in the wisdom of the team effort and of observing my classmates who may or may not be in their element.  Did it bring out the best or the worst in them?  Interesting to see and had me recalling that game about picking who you would want in your lifeboat.

Loving this stuff would serve well in my future.  Of course I didn’t have any idea that in 22 months I would be at basic training in Chilliwack, British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast and that I would be struggling beyond belief…

 

(Pictures credit to google images and whomever took them – thanks folks!)

 

My Skin Hurt (1996-2016)

Contentment: the state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things just as they are; peace of mind

A few years ago now and for decades before that, I had this awful phenomenon that would happen to me.  My skin would hurt if I perceived that I had eaten too much or not exercised enough in a given day.  I would have this feeling overwhelm me, born of guilt at not fulfilling my compulsion to perpetually under-eat (and I LOVE food)  and / or to not exercise every day, sometimes to the point of exhaustion, hunger pains and sore muscles.

I have stopped the madness over the past three years, spawned by the need to take medication which causes weight-gain and, have slowly begun to just be okay with looking like a normal 50-something menopausal woman.  I have come to the sad realization that it doesn’t matter so much what your Earth Suit looks like, if you don’t let it matter.  It is the ‘not letting it matter’ that is the tricky bit, especially if your brain is wired for approval like mine. ‘Sad realization’ because of all the time, preoccupation and wasted potential due to being ignorant to the reality that how your body ‘looks’ doesn’t matter nearly as much as we think, in this Western world. And, as another friend told me her mom would say, ‘dear, your body size is the least interesting thing about you.’

How about we make these things more important than the shape and size of our body:  enthusiasm, zest for life, helpfulness, kindness, compassion.  How about we stop telling little girls that they are so pretty and focus on how kind they are?

Over the past three years, I have been so much happier, it is profound.  (Okay, I have had moments of uncertainty, but they were fleeting, comparatively).

I was walking with a friend the other night whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and this post was imagined.  Due to my Earth Suit looking a lot plumper these days (which I am totally fine with), she asked, ‘So, are you still doing a lot of yoga, M?’  I chuckled in my head at this.  It is inevitable, this question.  Just like last week at the physio, he goes, ‘so, any thyroid issues these days?’  ha ha!  No, actually.  Just eating like a grown-ass woman, as one of my fave podcasters says: Summer Innanen. Of course, I didn’t say that, I just said, ‘um, nope’.  To my friend I tried to gently express the shite I have been through.  Knowing her to be a dieter and she having already poked fun at her ‘fat’ (of which she has none, oh friggin geez).  I explained that yoga had been a dozen year obsession which was all about ego and not really about zen at all.  It was a compulsion when it should have been a path to peace.  It was the opposite, and it made me skinny and very muscular.  (See for yourself: https://youtu.be/9lSU9I-ZPbk ).  Oh excuse me: lean.  The new word for skinny.  It also made me cra-cra.

I have had a new thing happen for the very positive, of late.  I have had all this energy and yearning to be athletic again (like I was as a girl).  So, I have taken up tennis lessons and just loving the feel of my body as I strive to hit that effing ball.  (It’s amazing how much I just want to hit that effing little ball.)  And, with a tennis court right behind my house, well, I’m set!  Pun intended.

The other day, out of the blue, I had a yearning to go for a bike ride.  I was able to adjust my son’s bike to handle my shortness and off I went.  It was fabulous.  I tried frisbee-throwing, swing dance and archery at the #tryitinwolfville initiative. I just have this energy and wish to move my body and it has nothing to do with being fit.  It’s just about joy this time, folks.  And, on the other end of things, sometimes I’m just tired and I take a nap in the middle of the day.  Lucky as I am to be able to do that.  Yo Universe, thanks againLife just keeps getting better as I strive to be like that little girl in the image above.  Not a care in the world and certainly no thoughts of dieting, restriction or gym time, just free to be me.

Any comments would be welcome, as always and I love to hear from you!

(The picture is of my little brother and I when we were kids at the camp.  Taken by our eldest sis.)

Just over the hill at Dabro Farms (2019)

We are big fans of really good, local, fresh food.  We aren’t fanatics about it, we just really appreciate it when it is offered and when we can get our hands on it fairly easily at a decent price.

Similar to the story about Reid’s Meats, Dabro Farm is just west a bit and is a family run farm, over the hill from our home with an honour-system market in a small barn.  It is surrounded by grazing cattle, sheep, chickens, the odd goat, geese and a couple of horses and donkeys, and the ever present Gaspereau River flowing lazily on by just across the paddock.

This one day, a few months ago, needing eggs, I rolled on over to the hill to Dabro after a sweet stroll in the sun along the canal with my then old furry girl-friend Lady Jane.

dabroArriving at the barn, set beside the country road, I parked and walked in.  The egg fridge was usually my first order of business as one grown son of mine is a true egg fan, eating two or three when he is over for breakfast.

Opening the fridge, I was shocked to find nary an egg when normally there were several dozen awaiting purchase.  Now, I didn’t let it bother me too much as I had the proprietor in my contacts on my cell.  We had taught his two sons how to drive years ago.  My trusty cell still held his phone number.  I quickly texted Shawn Davidson letting him know my predicament.  Somehow I knew that Shawn would be able to help.

I’ll be right there, he texted back lickety split.

Arriving in his pick-up truck from the other barn down the road, he dismounted and said, give me a sec.

He walked into the hen house and came out about two minutes later with a warm dozen of large brown eggs in a carton held open for me to inspect.  He had left his work at the other end of his farm and come to my aid instantaneously, to hand-pick just laid eggs out from under the feathered ladies in the hen house.  In my mind I was shaking my noggin gently thinking only in the valley.   Shawn began to apologize for not washing the eggs.  I told him to stop it as I gently pulled a warm brown egg into my palm.  It filled my palm completely.  A double-yoker for sure.  At breakfast it was confirmed.  Twin yokes.

Small farms are wonderful sustainable systems which employ families and provide good food to local folks with the circle of life working in a balancing act together.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  The manure from the livestock fertilizing the crops.  It reminds me of that scene in the Disney film Lion King when Mufasta explains to his son, Simba, that when he dies, his body becomes the grass.  The antelope eat the grass and later, become food for the lions.  Circle of life.  A delicate balance.  Done with respect.

dabro inside

So, to describe it further:  this particular farm market down in Gaspereau, has a few large fridges and freezers with various butcher-paper wrapped meats, poultry and pork, steaks, chops, bacon, ham and sausage as well as eggs.

There are also various other scrumptious offerings like home-made jams, jellies, relishes and pickles.  Not to mention baked goods, coffee by the cup, knitted socks, toques, mitts, candles, honey, garlic, ice-cream sandwiches which really hit the spot in the warm summer months, and a little library of novels.  All of these items are sold by honour-system.  There are no staff monitoring the market so, choose the goods, write them down in the little book. Insert cash into the cash box or send an etransfer.  Walk out the door and be careful of the roaming, foraging happy-go-lucky chickens.

Time for breakfast!

Thank you Shawn Davidson and family of Dabro Farms.  You will have noted a large contented smile on my face each time I have been in your market.  Only in the Valley.

 

(all pictures found on google images of Dabro Farms)

 

Bucket List in REVERSE, Baby! (and NOBODY puts Baby in a corner?!) ⏳📜💭

We’re here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can’t shine every day…
~Trooper

This is a concept I just heard on CBC radio.  The Reverse Bucket List is a list of times in your life that you would love to return to or that you are happy about or proud of or that taught a great lesson that you carry forward through your life.  So, looking back on your life for the best, most profound or impactful moments instead of always projecting that those moments need to happen in your future.  It is a method of making yourself happy for the accomplishments of your life thus far.  I realized, while writing my list below, that that is mostly what I am doing by writing this blog. I’m writing my reverse bucket list!

Here’s my list (with links to the stories that correspond).  No particular order except the first two are the top for a reason.

  1. Eloped to marry my best-friend and we are celebrated 26 years this year (2019);
  2. Had a son and stayed home to raise him for his first five years;
  3. Trekked for a month in Nepal in the Himalayas;
  4. Traveled by VW Van all over Canada, including the North West Territories and Yukon and into Alaska, visiting one national park in each province, territory and in Alaska;
  5. Hiked the 3-day Chilkoot Trail from Bennett, B.C. to Skagway, Alaska;
  6. Traveled and worked on a farm in Australia;
  7. Visited the Taj Mahal; and witnessed pilgrims bathing in the Ganges in India at dawn;
  8. Backpacked with our 4-year old throughout Mexico’s West Coast and most of Central America;
  9. Moved to a small Nova Scotian town without jobs and made our lives from scratch with our four-year old because we wanted him to be able to walk to school safely;
  10. Founded and incorporated a small education-services business that is now 13 years old and employs three others besides myself;
  11. Posted a listing on AirBnb and have hosted folks from all over the world;
  12. Started a school garden with a friend and made a blog about it and taught children how to sow, germinate, water, grow, harvest and save seeds from it;
  13. Had an eating disorder in my teens that gives me great compassion for that type of suffering today and a hope and am open to help others get over it;
  14. Lived and worked in Germany for three years and visiting most countries near there;
  15. Lived in Virginia, USA for two years then packed a large U-Haul and drove home to Canada and we were glad to be home (sorry American friends, no offence);
  16. Took a gondola ride in Venice and then got somewhat lost in its ancient twisty turny laneways;
  17. Drove from Germany into Czechoslovakia just after the 1989 removal of the Berlin wall and witnessed a country coming alive;
  18. Had three big dogs (not all at once) and a cat who were cherished as part of our family;
  19. Visited the Great Barrier Reef in Australia;
  20. Completed the PADI dive licence which was very difficult for me due to my claustrophobic tendencies.  (I no longer dive but I love to snorkel);
  21. Rappelled down a cliff on basic training in 1986 in Chilliwack, B.C. (9 PLATOON DOGS OF WAR!)Rappelling was terrifying to me due to a fear of height;
  22. Rappelled out of a helicopter on a special training day;
  23. Joined a group seven-day biking trip through France and gained a very sore bottom;
  24. Marched in the International Nijemgen Marches in Holland in 1989.  160 km over four days;
  25. Skied in the Swiss and the Austrian Alps;
  26. Own a house out-right with my husband;
  27. While living in the Arctic hand-built several high-fired, clay pots and still have some of them over 25 years later;
  28. Taught my son to speak American sign-language before he could speak;
  29. Was sporty and a scholar at school, for the most part;
  30. Completed Advanced Yoga Teacher Training at an ashram in the Bahamas;
  31. Taught yoga for several months then gave it up because it just didn’t suit me and it took a lot of courage to admit that;
  32. Joined a book club and read daily;
  33. Took several horse-archery ground training lessons and loved it;
  34. Mastered a hand-stand with no wall;
  35. Made yogurt from raw farm-fresh milk for years;
  36. Joined the Army and stayed in for 6 years, leaving honourably as a Captain;
  37. Completed Recruit Term at Military College in Sooke, B.C. and it was tough;
  38. Completed Off-Road driver training in the Army;
  39. Shot a fire-arm with fairly good accuracy, and cleaned it, stripped it and reassembled it blindfolded;
  40. Completed the Officer Challenge twice (only woman): 75 km trek over 24 hours with 18 mini-competitions, in combat gear;
  41. Was awarded the Sword of achievement for Junior Officer of the Year while in the army;
  42. Besides my first language of English, I can communicate somewhat in French, German, Spanish and American Sign-language;
  43. Studied dance for several years as a girl and still love to dance;
  44. Was a gymnast in elementary school and won a silver medal in a competition for the county;
  45. Have traveled by jet, helicopter, ferry, ship, sail boat, canoe, kayak, car, truck and train, including a train across most of Canada for days and into the heart of Australia on the Gahn;
  46. Hitch-hiked successfully in Canada and Australia;
  47. Witnessed flying foxes by the thousands in Australia;
  48. Have driven back and forth across Canada (several times) including solo enroute to Logistics training in the Army in 1988;
  49. Have been to all Provinces of Canada and two of the territories;
  50. Have lived and worked north of the 66th parallel, two hours North of the Arctic Circle;
  51. Was ‘Screeched In’ in Newfoundland where my husband is from;
  52. Hiked Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland and met curious Elk while on top of its tablelands;
  53. Sewed some clothing and curtains with a sewing machine, self-taught then decided I wouldn’t be doing that again;
  54. Learned how to cut a basic haircut from my sister;
  55. Met a harem of Bison in a National Park in Alberta;
  56. Miscarried my second son, late, which was heart-breaking but which helps me to cherish given life;
  57.  Learned how to read music and play piano and the flute;
  58. Met, hugged and kissed Deepak Chopra before he was very famous; and
  59. Love nature and simple times and love to laugh and be silly

Leave a comment with your top 5 or 10 Reverse Bucket List items…Come On….Go ahead.  I know you want to!!!

 

(picture of view from top of Gros Morne Mountain is from google images…thank you)

Only in The Valley 🐷 Episode Reid’s Meats (2017)

One of those moments that I have come to cherish in this big valley we now call home…

Part 1. Reid’s Meats 🔪

I walked into Reid’s Meats one afternoon on a mission to buy some ribs to cook up a feed, a feed we have only a couple of times per year.  Just every now and then I get that craving for fall-off-the-bone ribs.

I was the only soul in the place, other than the two brothers Conor, whom I always think of as the young guy with the dimples, and the older brother Michael, who is a more serious looking guy and all business (although I just called him and did get a chuckle out of him when attempting to get his email address, a long one).

Before I get further into the story, I need to give a description of the location of this meat shop.  It is set in a tiny crossroads called Melanson at the base of the rolling hills of Melanson Mountain with the Gaspereau River flowing past it, about ten minutes outside of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  This shop is constantly busy cutting wild meats in a separate room all night and domestic meats all day.  When we first moved here, someone told us it was the best place for fresh cuts of meat.  Always on ‘the hunt’ for the best quality food, I found myself patronizing Reid’s Meats.  And, you’re about to read a good example of that.

Anyhoo,

Michael Reid asks me if he can help me.  I tell him I’d like some ribs.  He shoots back, ‘pork or beef?’

K, I didn’t even know beef ribs were an option.  I decided to stick with pork and told him so.

‘How much do you want?’

‘How ’bout six racks about this big,’ as I held up my hands measuring about half a foot between them, thinking of my large roasting pan and how much I could cram in there, knowing the left-overs would be scrumptious the next day.

‘Just a sec’ he says to me and then to Dimples, he says, ‘sharpen my knife.’

Receiving his orders from his older brother, Conor quickly and deftly started on sharpening the knife while Micheal walked into the back fridge.

A few seconds later…

a whole pig carcass, lead by Michael, came whizzing out of the fridge on a huge hook which was attached to a track in the ceiling.  Michael carefully guided the carcass into place.

‘Only in the Valley,’ I’m thinking as I blinked my eyes to ensure this wasn’t a figment of my imagination.  It wasn’t.  Geez, I wish I had the guts to start recording this.  I had been told this was fresh meat.  Got that right.

What happened next is that Michael butchered that pig right in front of me while it hung on the hook.  He had this food-grade chain saw and a couple of different frightfully sharp knives, thanks to little brother, that he used to expertly and efficiently carve that meat, not wasting an ounce.

In a few minutes, while I watched with my jaw hitting the floor, he was smacking those fresh ribs down on the reddish-brown paper positioned on the stainless steel counter in front of me, his eyes meeting mine seeking approval to go ahead and wrap them up. Not on a styrofoam tray with plastic wrap and absorbent pad.  No, in the old-fashioned reddish butcher paper and beige tape that he moistened using a small, wheeled ceramic device with water in its tiny reservoir.

My mind reeled, for a moment, back to the endless summer days at the camp and of ‘Jake’s General Store‘ in Maggie River before the god-awful fire that burnt it to the ground.  Back when we would ride to town in the back of a pickup or walk there, barefoot, with a shiny quarter in sweaty little hands.  The butcher at Jake’s was as impressive and the cuts of meat were beautiful.  The ground beef was ground there in front of you from beef that you chose.  Then, the butcher would reach up and grab the string which was in a creaking pulley system attached to the ancient ceiling.  The package of meat would be wound with this string and his black oil pencil would scratch out the price on it while my large eyes watched in fascination, my fingers gripping the edge of the glass display case, my chin not yet clearing its edge. I could almost taste the burgers that we would have for supper, cooked by Mom outside the office on the grill, perched in the very rocks which formed the foundation of the cabin.  Cooked over charcoal, started with ‘strike anywheres‘ and yes, always with a wee hint of lighter fluid, lending an added ‘je-ne-sais-quois’ to the burger.

More than a few decades later and back to Reid’s Meats…

I just basically nodded profusely at the pile of freshly butchered pork ribs with a big wide smile.  I was feeling so thankful to be a part of such a great community where food is so wonderfully fresh and plentiful and the skill to handle it is still so present and of such a human scale.

Thank you, Reid’s Meats for carrying on a tradition and a family-run business providing this kind of quality for four decades.  This Upper Canadian come-from-away is one satisfied customer.

PIG

Coming soon: Part 2, Dabro Farms honour-system farm market

(Pictures found on google images…thank you.)

Bare Foot Summers 👣 (1966-1985)

Summers in the 70s lived by the soles of our feet, lakeside

My family had this amazing situation: the seven of us (my brothers and sisters and I) plus our parents.  We would leave the city behind for the two months of the summer and move two hours car ride north to the lake.  At the lake, we would shed our footwear and mostly run around bare foot.  It was incredible.  We were fleet of foot.  We would run through the tender green hay in the early summer which would be blond and tall by the late summer.

When I ponder that aspect of my childhood, I remember the immense sense of fortune at having this place as a retreat every summer and, when not doing morning chores, the sense of freedom and connection with nature that we all shared.

Most days, I would live in my bathing suit…no sunscreen, EVER – we didn’t even know what that was.  No hat, no sunglasses, no shirt, and as stated, no shoes.

Our lakeside acres had patches of earth that I knew to always be damp and mossy.  Patches that were warm and dry.  Tough prickly grass in the big fields.  Slimy slippery rocks like the ones on the path by cabin #1.  Annoyingly painful gravel of the camp roads which would pry an ‘ouch!’ and a hobble out of me every time.  The thick green moist grass outside of Grampa’s kitchen window where the sink water drained. The wet grainy sand of the beach as I would wade in for a swim, digging my toes in and enjoying the sensation.  The soft tufts of maiden grass that grew in the yard up by the porch of #2 cabin.  The baked planks of the redwood-painted docks.  The bottom of the canoe as we would catch frogs in the cove and the sensation of gliding over water that I felt through the fiberglass.

I knew these things because I detected them with the soles of my feet time and again as I would nimbly move over our twenty lakeside acres all summer.  Once, riding on the shoulders of my eldest sister’s future husband Peter, he remarked that I had leather-bottom feet. I shrugged.  It was my normal.

I was betrayed by them a few times, my bare feet: I knew the agony of a piercing by a hawthorn, stepped on absentmindedly, chubby arms crossed across my round belly, shivering from swimming for hours, as I made my small way past the tool shed.  I cried and bawled unabashedly with the pain, like little children do, and neighbours took me to have it removed by a doctor, such was my carrying on with it. (Mom and Dad were in town so the Pattersons came to my rescue – read a funny account of my brother Mark and the Pattersons in this story: The Camp).

Another betrayal of my barefoot days is in this story: Barefoot Heathens in which my Father forbids the ‘going to town’ barefoot.  We had been discouraged from ruining our school shoes which would be passed down from older siblings until they were worn and gone.

My brother Jobe and I would race through the tall hay in the lower field arriving at the frog pond slowly, lest we scare the frogs away.  We would creep the edges and wade carefully to grab an unsuspecting frog by its tiny waist just above its powerful legs.  Now and then, our bare feet would betray us and one of us would slip down the slick clay bank of the frog pond and into its stagnant waters, the stink and slime on our skin.  Once, we found ourselves a baby snapping turtle in that pond.  Just the once.  We held it like an Oreo cookie while it stretched its neck, beak and clawed feet doing its best to injure us while we ooohed and ahhed at how tiny and cute it was.  Then carefully letting it dive back into its swampy home, as we did with all the little pond frogs we caught.  (This wasn’t what we would do with the big, meaty bullfrogs we would catch in the cove though.  Those guys became breakfast and a crisp dollar bill from the Pattersons for helping to quiet the cove where their tent trailer sat.  The dozens of bullfrogs would ‘ribbit’ their love songs loudly all night long.)

These days, decades later, I find myself in my fifties and marvel at how we were back then.  Mostly carefree.  Mostly enjoying the simple things in life.  We wouldn’t use a telephone all summer.  Now we can’t be without one for a minute, carrying it on our person like it is a lifeline.

We would actually write letters on paper, stuffed into carefully addressed and licked 8 cent stamps on the envelopes, to friends in the city.  S.W.A.K. loudly printed on the back flap: ‘Sealed With A Kiss’.  If we were lucky, we would receive a hand-written letter from them a couple of weeks later, delivered by the mail truck guy into the big old aluminum mail box at the top of the gravel road.  Its red flag up and encouraging us to come. Scurrying barefoot to check the mailbox each day until finally it was there: a letter for me!  Savouring its every word and studying the envelope for clues as to when it was mailed from the city.  The impossibility of receiving news from two hundred miles away.

Times sure have changed as I am about to post this story and knowing that it can be read world wide, in the blink of an eye.  I am ever so glad to have made those simple but priceless memories at the lake, and through the soles of my leather-bottom feet.

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(photo courtesy of google images and the last one was taken by my hubby)

Feelin’ Fine 🌻 (2018)

‘ So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key’ *

In mid 2016 I started on Lithium Bicarbonate (again!) for my mental illness: Bipolar 1.  If you have read my previous posts on body image and on mental illness, you will know by now that I was struggling against succumbing to meds due to the strong suspicion that taking them would cause a large weight gain.

Well, it has done just that. My body now is the stuff of my previous life’s nightmares.  So, why is this post entitled Feelin’ Fine? Confused yet?

Well, I have changed folks.

It started when I hit rock bottom in May 2016.  I had extreme anxiety for days and a panic attack that rocked my world and I was sure I was about to die.  I could barely let go of my husband Dean’s hand.  All I could do to feel better was walk, and poor Dean, suffering with a broken toe, walked with me, holding my hand. (Ya, I know. I have the best husband in the world.)  If you had seen me then you would not recognize me.  I was barely able to look up.  I was debilitated.  The cortisol buildup in my low back was like a knife jabbing me.  Every thought spun out a new list of worries that multiplied.  I clutched Dean’s hand and he guided me gently along through the days.  I did simple tasks like pealing potatoes and hanging laundry.  That’s about all I could do without making copious, confusing lists and notes.

This was the point that I finally succumbed to medication.

Since then, I decided that it is far better to have a clear mind and psyche than it is to be small and trim.

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By my amazing sister Eva*

 

This has not been an instantaneous transformation.  It has taken hours and hours of concerted effort and two years of time going by to change my thinking.  I am doing this by reading books, blogs, articles, scientific studies and by listening to podcasts on this very topic…non-diet, body-neutral, non-fat phobic, Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating by podcasters like Christy Harrison on Food Psych; Meret Boxler on Life Unrestricted; Chris Sandel on Real Health Radio; Summer Innanen on Fearless Rebelle Radio.  These people have helped me immeasurably.  As has my husband of twenty-six years.  He is truly my best, most supportive friend.

It hasn’t been exactly easy to transform my thinking one hundred and eighty degrees.  From a very disordered existence of constant striving to maintain a small, lean body where in almost every waking moment over the last 35 years, I was aware, concerned, worried about eating less and moving more (it was a full-time job to maintain the energy deficit that then felt normal).  I mean, I was eating low-fat while trekking in the Himalayas while simultaneously battling a bowel parasite for jeezus sakes.

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I have become more peaceful by NOT doing anything to try to stay small.  I eat when hungry, whatever I want.  I drink when thirsty.  I move when it strikes my fancy to do so.  No schedule.  No goals.  No competitive work-out sessions.  No marathon-type activity in the off-ing to compulsively train for.  No $60 ++ per week of yoga classes, plus thousands of dollars for months of yoga teacher training at an ashram in the Bahamas (which in retrospect I now realize that I had done not to achieve Zen but mostly to achieve small-ness.  It was like going to a Fat Farm for me.  Okay, a Zen Fat Farm, if you will).

dancer on the fallen tree

I look back on my previous life and shake my head.  But it is all part of my path.

And, who cares if I am not small in size.  I am still ME.

My being is still here.  My me-ness.

You know me?  That person who loves an adventure;

a good doubling-over belly laugh;

a deep talk solving the problems of the world, including what to do with your hair;

a great beach walk or rainy-day stroll;

a carefree dance around the living room or in a random cafe to some good eighties tunes,

a pint and a good cry????

That person is still here and that person is doing okay.  She’s just in a bigger, softer body and she is doing much, much better on the inside, and, thankfully, not doing those annoying hand-stands every five minutes.

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One last one for the memory bank.  My son took this in Prospect, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The next time I asked him to take a picture of me doing a hand-stand was on the Keji Seaside beach, he goes, ‘Mom, that ship has sailed, don’t you think?’

Right on Buddy.  Gotta love kids.

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I would love your comments…

(The sunflower pic is from Google Images, all the rest are mine, Martha Valiquette, except the amazing Dragonfly which is by my eldest sister.)

*Excerpt from Already Gone (Eagles) Songwriters: Jack Tempchin / Robert Arnold Strandlund

Sticks and Stones 🆘 (1970 & on)

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me…
Sticks and Stones Break only Skin while Words are Ghosts that Haunt Me. Pain from Words has Left Its Scar on Mind and Heart that’s Tender. Cuts and Bruises now have healed, it’s words that I Remember.

Recently, two of my brothers became aware of my writings.  I had never actually invited them to read my stories because I didn’t think they would be interested in the least.  Their reaction to the news that I was blogging about my life, including when I was a child and also including very honest descriptions of our father’s behaviour during and after the divorce, was violent and bitter.  To clarify, they were violent and bitter toward me, not toward Dad.  Toward me.  Wait, I was the one who was abused.

I find myself deeply disappointed in them.  No one was there to protect me.  No one.  My little brother Luke was there, but he is almost three and a half years younger than me.

I am doing my best to therapeutically write about this part of my past.

Lately, I was on the phone with my best friend from childhood, Kelly.  Ever honest, she reminded me that she was there too.  She said, ‘Marn, I remember arriving at your house to find your dad walking around in his boxer shorts with the no-button fly wide open.  And, the thing is,’ she said, ‘He didn’t then go and put on his robe.  He just stayed walking around in his open-fly boxers.  It was disgusting.’

She continued with, ‘When Mark was manic (bipolar) he dry-humped me on the bed while I screamed for him to stop.’  Kelly would have been 16 and my brother Mark would have been 21 at the time.

Last night, over our supper, I was again drawn back into the memories of the past.  I told my husband of twenty-five years, Dean, about times when I would witness my dad being truly mean and abusive to my siblings.  Telling them these hurtful messages:

‘You’ll never amount to anything.’

‘Be a man.’

‘You’re weak.’

‘Get some backbone.’

‘It’s a good thing you’re beautiful.’

I clearly recall a time when I was in the army and had a month off over Christmas.  I went to visit Dad, my step-mother, Wen, and Luke who were living in a small border city  then.  At that time, Dad and Wen were the owner / operators of a 9-room motel. (The same motel that was the excuse for him not helping me with my University fees when I was at Waterloo and then consequently decided to join the army.)

At the time, 17-year old Luke was working as a server, trying to figure out what he would be doing for school and for the future.  He could have used some gentle, fatherly guidance.  He did not get that there.  What he received was verbal and emotional abuse and aloofness.  When I saw him on that visit, he seemed to be in a bit of a slump.  He talked little.  At meals he slouched over his plate with a rounded back, barely lifting his face from his food.  It was heart breaking.  Where was my witty, intelligent little brother who could make me laugh at any moment?  Dad was so mean to him and he wouldn’t stop.  He just wouldn’t stop.  Every word was a put down.  An insult.

I remember Dad taking us to a tacky, cheap diner for a very inexpensive meal.  I was into my new army career and doing well.  I was on top of the world.  I had passed all the difficult training, won a great posting to Germany and had my own platoon.  I was best friends with Dean and looking forward to romance with him.  I knew he would be mine soon. ‘Just a matter of time,’ I would tell myself.  At this diner, I was dressed in nice clothes: my new suede skirt, leather pumps and freshly pressed blouse, earrings and soft makeup…all dolled up, because it was important to be all dolled up around Dad.  He had a sharp, critical eye and an acid tongue.

So, we’re sitting in a booth having a nice little chat about my work in the army.  In the back of my mind I suspected that there would be a dig coming soon.  And so it did.  Dad says, ‘Martha, that mole under your nose, why don’t you get it removed?’

WTF Dad.  That mole under my nose??? So, this is what you’re going to talk about at this time?  The mole under my nose???  My face turned dark red.  I was furious with him.  I should have known though.  I should have known.  There was always a dig.  And I ask myself, what must have been done to him, for him to behave that way?

I remember this one Christmas when Dad gave my brother Jobe a second-hand dictionary.  He actually wrapped up a used dictionary, but, before he did, he inscribed it:

To Jobe:

Read this daily and you just might make something of yourself.

From Dad.

How was that supposed to make a ten-year-old feel?

I have striven my whole adult life as a wife, parent, sister and friend, to watch the words that come out of my mouth…that they should not hurt, scrape or strike but that my words should make others feel fine, helped, free or loved, happy or better.  I have made mistakes in my youth, before I understood that insulting was not the best way to behave, as well, and in the heat of the moment, that I know.  But, at least I am aware of the effect my words can have.  We all have that power.

Amazing power to do harm or good with our words.

on hill

(Pictures come from google images.  Thank you.)

Let the Games Begin ~ Part 2 🍭 (1970)

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