Another little piece of my heart

Do you have a place that you like to visit, because no matter what may have happened in your life (or may be happening) – as soon as you get there, you suddenly feel better?

You feel healthier?  You feel whole?

I have such a place.

This past Friday night, M and I adventured up to the Sunshine Coast where his parent’s have a brilliant little getaway that they very generously let us make use of for the weekend.

I will never tire of this view for as long as I live.

This place is amazing for many reasons.

From the spectacular view of the waterfront, to the epic record collection, to the amazingly comfortable beds, to the new wood burning stove – it really is a piece of heaven.

I feel the earth move...SING IT CAROLE!

I’m not sure how many times M and I have visited this unique and beautiful spot, but I can without hesitation say that each stay has, and forever will, occupy a special place in my heart.

Before I regale you with some of the finer (re: hilarious) moments of our brief, just-passed sojourn, here are three snapshots of past-times spent at this haven of dreams.

1.Sepetember 2003.  M and I have been dating for approximately two months and I am completely head-over-heels in love with him.   I am in first year at UBC and he is in third, and one day while we’re eating breakfast at my dorm’s cafeteria, he asks me if I would like to go away with him at the end of the month.

Yes, I tell him. Unequivocally, without question, YES.

My heart practically implodes in my chest upon hearing that my father is willing to let me borrow his car for the weekend.  My excitement knows no bounds.

We arrive early the Saturday morning because M ends up having to work at the movie theatre that Friday night. I am too restless to fall back asleep once we arrive, so after the inaugural tour we make peanut butter and jam sandwiches with thick slices of French bread and head down to the dock to suntan and “study.”

After lunch, we take the canoe out for a long afternoon paddle.  I marvel at how quickly our boat is skimming along – that is, of course, until I take a brief rest and realize we haven’t slowed down at all.

M just laughs at me.  I laugh too.

The weather is so hot I want to take off my clothes and dive right into the water. Instead, I dip my fingers into blue-green depths one at a time, and let the droplets run down my forearms and drip off of my elbows.

That night, against our better judgement, we light a fire and roast ourselves silly as we eat our dinner and grow tipsy off of red wine and Cat Stevens.

I remember thinking how I never wanted our dance to end.

2. New Years, 2006. M and I invite eight of our closest friends up to the Coast for a New Years raclette feast.  We eat (what seems like) pounds of the delicious Swiss cheese, drink good wine, and laugh ourselves crazy playing charades, dancing to Boney M, and lighting sparklers and banging on all the pots and pans we can find when the hour strikes twelve.

HAPPY NEW YEAR YOU CRAZY LOONS!

The next day we set out for a brisk, first-day-of-the-new-year-hike, letting the gale-force winds blow right through us – it sends the last year packing, and makes sure we are fresh and clean for all that awaits us in the coming months.

As we round the corner at the end of the trail, the winds are so strong that my ear muffs are blown from my head, and the only thing that saves them from an ocean swim is the lone, bare-faced tree, clinging for dear life on the cliff edge, twenty meters on my right.

M gallantly saves them, but in the process, almost gives up his place on earth in exchange.

Next time, I tell him, just let them go.

When we arrive back at the house, the power goes out.  We spend the rest of the evening cooking chilli and garlic bread on the wood burning stove, and playing balderdash by candlelight.

I know I still have abdominal muscles from laughing so hard that night – believe me, they’re in there somewhere, I just need to find them.

3. August 2010. Having defended my master’s thesis in May of that year, for the first time in (what seems like) my entire life, I am not stressing over, or thinking about school.

Mother Nature’s summer-stat has been set on full blast, and every day looks like a photo-still from a Richard Attenborough documentary.  Everything looks as though it has been kissed by magic.

My swimming hole.

Each morning I wake up and run a 10km loop that winds from the house to the local provincial park and back. Each morning upon my return I race down to the dock where I strip down to my underwear before jumping into the drink for a refreshing post-run swim.

I am sure the neighbours think I’m bloody bonkers, but I don’t care.

I feel light.  I feel fabulous.

I feel love.

When we arrived at the house on Friday night, the place was pretty darn freezing.  No word of a lie, I am fairly sure that I lost the feeling in the bottoms of my feet within the first fifteen minutes of our arrival.

PJs + sweats + winter coat + tea + fire = defrosted me

Thank goodness I am married to a mountain man who managed to quickly get a roaring fire going – but for a little lass such as I, with very poor circulation, I was hard pressed to get out of my winter coat until the place reached sauna status.

After that though, I was fine.  After that I was on fire!

Over the weekend, in preparation for Christmas, M and I decided that we would whip ourselves up in a baking tizzy.  Initially it was pretty difficult deciding on what we wanted to accomplish, but eventually we managed to cull the original list of must-dos down to three choice items: cheese sticks, sugar cookies (reprised from my culinary adventure from the other night) and cinnamon stars.

Cheeeeeeeeezzzzeeee sticks! So good!

The cheese sticks and the sugar cookies were by far the more successful undertakings.  I not sure how many of those cheesy delights I’ve scarfed down since M removed them from the oven – but it’s safe to say that we will definitely be making a few more trays of those before the holiday season is over.

Also, I think I will just become a sugar cookie making machine, in so far as they are super easy to make and way fun to decorate.

At first M and I were all, “ERM..?” because he inadvertently purchased the neon food colouring, but we’ve come to understand that if psychedelic Santa doesn’t say HO HO HO, that we don’t know what does.

(Don’t tell us.)

All the colours that you had on your snowsuit in the 80s!

The cinnamon stars weren’t so much a failure as they were a reinterpretation of the definition of star. (I mean, cupcakes aren’t too far off, right?)

Yes. I am drinking prosecco out of a Swiss anniversary brandy snifter. There’s no shame here!

We topped off the night with a sunset down at the dock, stellar homemade pasta, and a crisp prosecco that danced on our tongues, although our feet did the actually jigging as we boogied down to Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond and the Rolling Stones.

Seriously, guys, if you start us up – if you start us up, we’ll never stop.

I want to be a supermodel

So.

Ch-ch-check it.

I used to be really good at getting all of my holiday to-dos done well before the stress and just general madness of the December month consumed not only me, but all of my loved ones.

I was a planning, shopping, and wrapping force to be reckoned with – my plans were executed with such precision I felt as though I could have established my own holiday-planner guild – apprentices and all.

Mostly I was imagining living in a Terry Pratchett novel, but you know, I’ll take when I can get.

However, for the last few years this once-strength of mine has waned; more and more I leave things- once easily accomplished errands – to the last minute.

I am unsure of what evil force is at play here (perhaps some deranged woman obsessed with her own reflection has sent a metaphorical huntsmen to rid me not of my beauty (HAH!) but of my festive organization skills) – yet somehow I don’t think this tale achieves quite the same level of drama as the original.

Either way, it is a dangerous line to walk, what with the majority of my family living over one thousand miles away and Canada Post being notoriously unreliable, especially anytime after the first of December.

It’s imperative that I get their gifts in the mail – STAT.  And with less than three weeks left before the grand opening (of presents) I was starting to feel the anxiety of not having anything prepared.

To combat my ever rising sense of dread, last Friday I decided that it was high time to get my rear in gear, and trekked out after work, armed to the teeth with a razor sharp resolve.

The effort alone nearly destroyed me.

Good grief.

M was supposed to meet me downtown after my two hour head start.  He was going to help me fill in any gaps in gifts for people, while at the same time we could enjoy the festive decorations of the downtown core.

(Side note: after spending Christmas in the UK, I cannot help but feel as though our streets are pretty darn bare and wish that our cities would take part in similar spectacular and magical light displays.  But like I said, I take what I can get.)

Anyways, I gave him a call and promptly told him not to bother coming all the way downtown but that seeing as though he was already on transit, I would meet him halfway at Metrotown.

And that friends, is where I saw these:

Fashion is just so draining…
I need a nap. Good thing I have this jaunty cap.

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.

Forever Twenty-One is so awesome for so many (facetious) reasons, it actually boggles the mind.

M won’t even go into the store because he says that the combination of the loud, crap music, crowds of overzealous teenage girls and just general gaudiness brings on the mother of all panic attacks.

I don’t doubt it.  You should have seen him in Primark.

I thought he was going to pass out.

But seriously, who styled these mannequins?  Who got home after the most hard core yoga session of all time as thought, “holy crow, the body can move in the most peculiar of ways!  Let’s make sure we highlight this interesting factoid in our next window display – it may even move the attention away from how absolutely insane looking ourclothing is.”

I was in a giggle fit for the rest of the night just thinking about it, but ever more so after M pointed out that two of the mannequins look like they are casually trying to give birth.

I’m…so…exhausted…but…so… glamorous….

“What am I up to you ask? Oh, you know, not much…just heading into my twelfth straight hour of labour, but sheesh – don’t I look stylin?”

No lady.  You look stone cold CRAZY.

I also don’t know exactly what to do with these boots:

LAUGH IT UP FUZZBALL

I mean, how many wookies needed to die to create this abomination?

M has been playing a ton of Skyrim of late and he says that they look like something his character would don before going into battle against a dragon.

Erm. Yeah…

If that doesn’t signal cool, hip and fashion forward, than slap my face and call me T’analia.

(Don’t do that.)

Heck, I know I don’t go anywhere these days without my leather jerkin and long sword.  But that’s only because I haven’t yet figured out how to properly style my battle ax.

Anyway, I couldn’t stop myself form posing like this for the next two days, just because the idea of them kept cracking me up.

I’m just waiting for Ford Models to phone.

From now on, anytime I am a waiting in a line I am going to stand in this position, because I’m pretty sure people will either think that 1) something is wrong with me, or that 2) I am very, very desperate.  Either way, I am sure to guarantee that I am served first.

Or you know, I’ll end up committed.

Is it a price I’m willing to pay? I’m not sure – yet.

Knowing that I may never have to lay eyes on another Forever Twenty-One floral patterned unitard or pair of hotpink hammer pants, may just tip the scales.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Oh, and all you folks living across Canada, waiting for your Christmas gifts?  You now know what what’s heading your way.

One odd duck

Hey Kids!  In lieu of the regular Friday Fry-up, I have a little something different planned.

Now, before I get into the crux of the matter, I feel as though I need to explain myself.

I, contrary to past (and current) posts, am not a completely deranged animal-cum-water fowl fiend.  I just happen to suffer from some kind of faulty construction (birth defect?)  in so far as I incapable of stopping myself from becoming momentarily paralyzed every time I am found in the presence of these beings.

Seriously, I almost start crying every time I read an article on polar bears.  (DAMN YOU COCA COLA!)

What can I say?

I also just really, really like ducks.

Like, a lot.

So it pretty much makes my day, but also sort-of takes my breath away and makes me tear up a bit every time I walk into the lobby of my office building and see this:

I’m trying to figure out how to 1.) get one of the geese up the elevator and into my office and 2.) jerry-rig the electronics so it will still be able to move and not, you know, blow my place sky high.

But nere you worry – I’m working on it.

Man, is it just me or is it that any way you slice the mandarin orange these days, things are looking pretty darn festive?

I don’t know if the daily increased swelling I experience in my chest is due to 1.) the holiday spirit 2.) the daily inclusion of mechanized ducks from an old Woodward’s window display 3.) angina or 4.) all of the above.

Two nights ago I was speaking with my sister on the phone and we were laughing (nay cackling) about an incident that occurred a couple of Christmas’ ago that concerned her, a Christmas-cracker hat, and a bowl of bran buds cereal.

It is definitely one of our favourites and a total go-to memory when we are in need of a good laugh-until-you-cry moment.

So do it I shall.

Cry tears of happiness.

Where we lay our scene

Currently, my husband and I are operating at full speed ahead.  It is quite a shock to acknowledge that we are now into November and before we know it, it will be December, then New Years – seriously within a hop, skip and a wink he will be wracked by arthritis and my hair will be tinted blue and stiff with aqua net.  Or is it the other way around?  I can never remember.

I would like to take this opportunity to give credit where credit is due, in so far as the man to whom I have pledged my troth until the end of the world (see: Michelle Bachmann, President) is without a doubt the coolest teacher of all time.

Please see exhibit A: his Halloween costume (which also happened to be his first day teaching Romeo and Juliet).

That ruff was made from a loofah. A loofah!

Exhibit B is a little longer – a snapshot from four years ago – that I hold close.

It is night time and I am writing.  Sitting at the computer, freezing, fingering the frayed edges of my boyfriends old boxer shorts (that I am wearing) I am also listening to my cat, Nymeria, talk to the small birds outside in our cherry tree.  M is lying on the couch reading Ovid, laughing with his eyes, and he speeds through the Amores with zeal unknown to non-classicists or non-nerds.  Despite the chill, there is a slightly sweet smell to the air, and I know this is because spring is slowly breaking out of the frozen walls of ice and fog that winter has trapped her in for far too long.  I think about how we herald spring as a rebirth for the world – for its flora and fauna, for the sleepy bears and their growing young, for the blue jays that rattle our window panes and the daffodils that smile at us as we pass them by.  But I wonder how much of this rhetoric about spring is representative of our time and place, of living life outside an area marred with conflict, violence and fear.  Spring in Poland, during the Russian and German occupations would not signify rebirth, nor a celebration of new life: it would serve as a reminder that despite the change in season, the oppressors and their destructive regimes remained entrenched in everyday life.  I think about what kind of strength of character is required to deal with such a strain.  And how I would do in a similar situation.

I ask M if he has a hero.

“Why?”  He closes his book and pushes his glasses up against his nose.  He is wearing a stained t-shirt (it is the one I wear each time I dye my hair) and shorts whose elastic is so old he has to hold them up as he walks towards me.

Because it is late at night, and we are dressed comfortably.  We are dressed like bums.  We are dressed like those who have nothing, though we have everything.

“Because I am thinking about heroes and I’m wondering if you have one.”

I am half expecting an answer.  The last time I started this discussion, I almost left Red Robin in tears.  This is because I am a bad debater: I have a hard time believing that my opponent’s efforts aren’t masquerading as a personal attack.  The last time we were talking I made it clear that I don’t think that the heroes of classical antiquity are proper heroes: they were too selfish, too obsessed with their own legacy and too drenched in the blood of innocents to have rightfully earned this label.  M, however, understands the reasoning behind Achilles and Odysseus’ actions (and those of their kin), and sees no problem with their association of “hero.”  He also believes that the democracy of Athens is dead and (jokingly) propagates the return of an oligarchy.  Old white men running this old white country: that isn’t so far from our present truth.

As he thinks about the question he thrums his fingers along the cover of his book.

“No, not particularly.  I don‘t think I could say I have a hero.”  He rolls his shoulders and kisses the top of my head, and I can sense him pausing to smell the shampoo scent of my hair.

“What about Romeo Dallaire?” I ask.  I swivel around in my chair and look up into his eyes.  He inhales with a sharpness that sets the hairs on my arms on edge.

“I wouldn’t contest the idea that he is a great man who tried to make the best of an impossible situation.  I admire his strength and courage, but no, he’s not my hero.”

I exhale.

It seems as though tonight, we will be spared a debate (and therefore, my tears.)  M picks me up.  As easily as a rag doll.  He likes to gauge how strong he is getting, by carrying me about our apartment, and measures his gains by how well he can lift me up with one arm.  My hipbone grinds into his shoulder as we pace the length of our living room.

“What about when you were a kid?  Did you have any heroes then?”

Nymeria weaves between M’s legs as he makes his way over to the couch.  She purrs as she rubs up against him, like she knows she is trying to trip us up and loves every minute of it.  The patches of orange and black on her back stand stark against the white of her legs and the slits of moonlight that fall through the blinds.  M lets me down on the cushions, before taking a seat.

“I used to pretend I was one of the X-men.  I had the power to shape matter, and create force fields.  My best friend was Jubilee and we’d hang out at the mall bothering overweight security guards while drinking orange sodas.”

I feel my nose scrunching up as I start to laugh.  I too used to imagine such things when I was younger.  My sister and I would dress up in our highland dancing skirts and wield my father’s blunt tai chi swords because in our minds we were Sailor Venus and Sailor Jupiter battling intergalactic space monsters who wreaked havoc on our homemade Tokyo and its environs.  But although I never missed an episode, I can honestly say I never saw those long-legged cartoon girls as heroes.  They were too weak in times of crisis, always on the verge of annihilation before the masked gentleman would show up and save the day.  As a newly self-discovered feminist, this always horrified me.

I talk to M about my Slavic film class.  I probably talk to him about this class more than any other class I have ever taken.  I am not saying this as a sly way of sucking up to my professor, somewhere, out there, but because it is a truth and my new years resolution for the past five years has been to stop lying so much.

I talk to him about how I am trying to become more aware of the words I use when illustrating a point.  I am becoming aware of the power of speech.  I am becoming aware of the baggage that come with certain terms, or the taste a sentence can leave in your mouth when peppered with contested “truths” or “normalcy’s”.

I tell M about how the Polish Solidarity movement happened the same year as the Moscow Olympic boycott and that I am thinking about the connection between the two events.  And about how Lech Walesa has always been presented to me as a hero, and I believed this because of the enormity of his actions because they took place during a time when enormity was discouraged and suspect and therefore punished.

“I am very proud of you,” he says.  “I am proud to be marrying you.”  I don’t really know what this has to do with Poland or Lech Walesa, but it I feel relief spread over me like fresh jam across crunchy french bread.

“I am trying to find answers,” I whisper to him.

I feel his hand in mind.

“I know.”

Safety dance

I was listening to CBC’s “As it Happens” last night and they replayed an interview that focused on white nose syndrome, a commonly misunderstood disease that has affected over one million bats living in eastern Canada and the United States.  I have read articles on this malady and the photos that inevitably accompany the piece are heartbreaking.   I couldn’t listen to more than a couple minutes of the show because I felt as though my heart had been placed in a vice.  In between deep breaths I kept repeating to myself, “those poor batties…those poor little batties.”

Sheesh – anyone who might have overheard me would probably have immediately written me off as “poor” and “batty” too.

But the crux of the matter is, I am very easily overwhelmed by things I read or hear about.  It’s almost as if a temporary paralysis sets in, and I am unable to concentrate on anything else.   Whatever “it” happens to be, completely derails me from my everyday mental and physical normalcy.

So, just as I cannot stand to listen about the untreatable ravaging of our little nocturnal flying friends, I also cannot get the image of my mother, sitting at her kitchen table, eating two massive pieces of toast, dancing to Maroon 5’s “Moves like Jagger” out of my head.

The difference being, of course, is that this image does not make my heart ache, but swell.

I should clarify however, she was not full on dancing – just shoulder-heavy, top half dancing, with quite a bit of arm movement thrown in for good measure.  The kind of dancing you do when you’re sitting on transit and the BSE (best song EVER) comes onto your ipod and it’s taking everything in your being not to jump up and start breaking it down, because even though no one is sitting next to you and you have a good amount of room, and really, no one is looking, and certainly no one cares, and you think you might as well go for it, you really don’t want people to stare.

In trust, it was one of the most simple, beautiful and hilarious things I have ever seen.  She had never heard the song before, and when it began to play on the radio she didn’t immediately react; my mother isn’t one to immediately burst into the shoulder swing.  (Coincidentally, we were also listening to CBC – we don’t do much else in this family.  Side note: I was having tea with a friend and I asked her if she ever listened to the station and she was like, “No, but my Dad does!” which only reinforced my belief that I may be aging prematurely.)

Anyways, there was mom, sitting, eating her toast, reading the Globe and Mail’s editorial cartoon, and as I’m watching her, I begin to see the song start to work its magic.  The song itself isn’t revolutionary, but it’s darn catchy.  It’s pretty hard to listen to it and not get a good foot tap going.   So first, I notice a finger wag, then, a head nod.  In no time, slowly but surely, and then WHAM!  Shoulders shimmying for all of Canada.

Living so far away from my family members is hard.  As much as I enjoy phone calls, skype chats and e-mails, nothing really can take the place of a face-to-face, in the flesh chin wag.  If anything, as electronic means of communication get better and better, it seems to get harder and harder to maintain individual, in person relationships.  (Also, is it just me, or to cross-Canada flight prices increase with each introduction of an iphone upgrade?)

This conceit is certainly not new, nor is it groundbreaking.   That electronic media has usurped traditional forms of communication is a horse with a “flogged” tattoo on its hide.

The one thing I can, and do take to heart in knowing this, is that the things that make it okay for me to live so far away from my loved ones is not a machine with an operating system that will be obsolete in six months, but the images of a dancing mom, or a poker playing dad, or one sister that eats hot sauce on everything and another who always asks “do you love me?” before she crushes me in a hug.

I will choose a locket with two tiny photos sitting inside it, over an electronic picture frame any day.

Pragmatic addendum: these images that live inside of me are also excellent blinders for the times when I think that 5000km aren’t enough of a buffer between myself and these individuals (but this doesn’t happen all that often.)

In the mean time, I’m going to do a little dance.  And since I’m not on transit, I’m going to give it.  Because hot damn, can I move like Mick Jagger.