A blogger phenomenon?

I tend to chatter away to friends, family, and co-workers about the same mundane, trivial things I blather about in print here. Until recently, I've had no problem telling the same story, with minor variations to suit my audience, over and over (and over and over and over, according to Himself) again.

Until I started this blog. Now I find that if I write about something here first, when I then try to tell the same story in person, I feel like I'm ripping off material from someone else - like I'm trying to pass off something I read in the newspaper as my own thoughts. Himself is the only person in my life who knows I have a blog right now, so there's no crossover - I don't have to worry that I'm telling someone a story they've already read here.

It's weird - I find I stop myself mid-tale, feeling vaguely guilty of plagiarism.

Is this a common sensation? Will it pass?

Or am I just strange?

(Yes, I know I'm strange - but is that the only reason I'm suffering this misplaced sense of guilt?)

Hallowe'en at Work

I've just come back from the costume-judging down in the lobby of my place of employment. In an office of 45, we had 18 people in costume (and I think the warehouse workers can be forgiven for not wanting to operate heavy machinery in capes). Everyone got a prize and a chocolate bar (Belgian milk, top notch stuff) - we have an excellent social committee which takes care of all the little details that contribute greatly to everyone's enjoyment of the day. We have a pirate, a cowboy, an olde-tyme gold miner, a Scottish laird, several witches, a gypsy (me, in a purple wig. Most fetching, I think), Medusa, a couple of faeries (of the Tinkerbell variety), a delightful animé doll, and an assortment of monster-types.

I've had a couple of minor problems with my costume:

1. long, sweeping gypsy skirts and wheeled computer chairs are incompatible. I've pinned myself to my seat at least a dozen times already today.

2. it's difficult to type with 6" of bangles on either arm, as they keep my wrists elevated. On the bright side, I don't expect gypsies have a lot of trouble with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

I'm kind of enjoying the long hair - especially flicking it back over my shoulders with dramatic flair. And it gives me something to do when I'm proof-reading - I've added several LOTR-elf-style braids and knots to it.

And, since I'm wearing 18 lbs of jangling beads and bangles, I haven't had a single head-on collision today. We have enough blind corners in this office that getting a cup of coffee can be quite a hazardous operation, unless, as I do, you have your own early warning system.

I've had enough compliments on the purple hair that I'm thinking I might try it for real, next time it's short (I'm growing it out right now and am sticking to one colour - Feria Chocolate Cherry, in case you were interested - for the duration. Last time I grew my hair long, I swapped shades a few times and wound up with an oddly banded look).

I quite like the gypsy look, to be honest. I think, once the kids are grown and I don't have to worry about scarring their little psyches, I'll adopt a more bohemian personal style. And mutter curses at people who cut me off in traffic ...


frymaster returns

After an absence of nearly 4 months, frymaster is back online. Although inquiring minds want to know what he did last summer, his latest entry makes no mention of his prolonged absence.

In honour of the occasion, I thought I'd point you to my favourite frymaster post, a brilliant example of the eccentricities of the English language.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

There'’s been a massive invasion of crows in the last few weeks. I’'ve seen them in alarming numbers in fields, on power lines, flying overhead in black waves - enough to make me wonder if Sauron hasn'’t hired a realtor and started checking out open houses in the area.

Don'’t get me wrong - I like crows. Their dapper attire, the cocky insouciance of their strut, the cunning intelligence that gleams in their eyes, the raucous joy of their cries - but driving home yesterday, I passed over a kilometer of phone lines festooned with glossy ebony birds. Allowing 6"” per bird (yes, I regularly mix metric and imperial measurements, so sue me), that'’s 6,666 crows (and how'’s that for an ominous number?). I'’ve seen several farmers’ fields a-swarm with black mobs and, last weekend, I drove under a cloud of shadowed wings stretching several miles across the sky.

They don'’t travel silently, either, do crows. They fill the air with their strident calls, like a rowdy Stanley Cup mob. They swoop and dive erratically, exuberantly, between the passing cars, or swagger imperiously along the shoulder. They exhibit a fearlessness out of all proportion to their size.

As I said, I
like crows ... but I don'’t trust them. I think they’'re plotting something.


My Life as a sxKitten

According to the ever-handy Dictionary.com, a sex kitten is "a young woman considered to have sex appeal." The name started out as an in-joke on Himself's blog, because I'm neither young nor kittenish - at least not what I consider kittenish: cute, cuddly, helpless, dependent. Nor do I think of myself as, or try to be, particularly sexy - Angelina Jolie is sexy, or Charlize Theron, or Shakira - although I will admit that men my age (and older, never younger) often respond to me in ways that indicate I might be underestimating my appeal. Nothing blatant, but I am not immune to the occasional compliment or admiring glance. Still, it's not something I've ever relied on, or tried to use to my advantage.

It's also mildly ironic, as I came to enjoy sex quite late in life - I was over 30 when I met Himself, who introduced me to truly mind-blowing sex. Until then, it was something I did for my partner, not for pleasure. For pleasure, I'd take a massage or foot rub any day. I was pretty good at faking it, I believe - no one ever called me on it, anyhow. But no more - I don't know what the difference is, although I suspect that trust and honesty have a lot to do with it, plus a massive dash of chemistry (something I never believed in until the first time Himself touched me). He taught me to enjoy my body, to be, to (probably mis-)quote John Hawkes, "a woman feeling good in her skin".

I love that he thinks of me as his sxKitten when no one else sees me that way. He makes it safe to need him, to let my guard down, to want to be held and comforted and caressed, something I could never accept from anyone else. And letting my weaknesses show to him has, paradoxically, made me a stronger person, more sure of myself, able to bring more to our relationship.

So I wear my name with pride, because I have found the man who understands who I really am, who brings out the best in me, who thinks I'm small and cute and vulnerable but also loves that I'm strong and independent and rational ... and finds everything about me sexy and desirable.


Bad, Bad Movies

I'd forgotten how very bad a lot of the movies were when I was a teenager. Chickadee and I just caught the last hour of Gremlins, which came out the year I graduated from high school (Pop quiz: How old am I?). She thought it was cute, but I'm still reeling from the overall badness of it - bad script, bad acting, bad continuity ... Phoebe Cates sported a bruise that switched cheekbones at least twice that I spotted, and I wasn't watching very closely. Please note that I am not knocking the special effects (although the frozen, deserted streets looked awfully sound stage-y) - I know they did the best they could at the time. Still, breakdancing gremlins in legwarmers??? But you know a movie is pretty weak when an 8-year-old can poke holes in the plot.

I do remember being underwhelmed when I saw it back in '84, so at least I wasn't completely without taste back then. And Gremlins was just one of dozens of bad movies aimed at the tween and teen market - Goonies, European Vacation, Police Academy ... not that anything's changed, really. They're still cranking out dreck for the masses. But there are so many more crappy titles to choose from these days, which has to be progress, right?

Thank whomever you like for Pixar et al, for producing movies that kids like, and parents can watch 463 times without wanting to incinerate the entire entertainment unit. Much as I love the old Disney classics, they get pretty tired on the 3rd or 4th showing (and could someone ask them to stop messing with a good thing and leave the denizens of the 100 Acre Wood alone? Enough with the 3rd rate brand extensions already!). I much prefer Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc., as do my (admittedly exceptional and remarkably intelligent) children.

Of course, my parents didn't have to deal with repeated viewings of bad kids' shows. If you missed it in the theatres, you could wait 3 or 4 years and hope they showed it on Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night. Otherwise, you were SOL, except for seasonal offerings like Sound of Music (for years I thought it ended when they got married, because that's when I had to go to bed. I was quite surprised to find out they didn't live happily ever after in their lovely yellow chateau.) and The Grinch (which I still love and can recite word for word - the book version, along with The Tale of Custard the Dragon, James James Morrison Morrison, and The Owl and the Pussycat).

Well, I'm tired, and I've completely forgotten where I was headed when I started this post, so I think I'll cut my losses and go to bed before this becomes a totally incoherent ramble.

I really should make notes before I start charging madly off in all directions ...


A Minor Rant

I just had dinner at my ex-husband's, and I can't shake off a strong desire to have a shower and scrub myself clean. It's our daughter's 8th birthday, and he made dinner for her and two friends, and invited my son (not his) and I for dinner, my Beloved being on a ferry en route to visit his daughter, who is also 8.

He's not a bad person, my ex, but the traits I didn't like when we were married have gotten more pronounced, and I find spending any amount of time with him fairly painful these days. He's so wrapped up in himself, and what people think of him, and it dominates his conversation even with 3 young girls - how the maitre d' at a 3-star restaurant remembers him when he calls, how his butcher compliments his taste in meat, how he only shops where he knows who owns the store and they respect his needs ... He just can't get over what a fabulous guy he is, and it must be a continuous source of confusion to him that everyone doesn't share his opinion. Plus he smokes, so my clothes now reek of stale smoke.

I will confess to a deep dislike of pretension and self-aggrandizement. I have to bite my tongue when I'm around him to keep from pointing out that no one gives a rat's ass what kind of wine he buys or how many linen shirts he owns ... that there's a reason why, in the 6 years since we separated (his idea, by the way - he thought he'd be happier without me) he's never had a relationship last more than 6 weeks.

And no, I'm not bitter that he ended our marriage, despite how that last parenthetical comment sounds. I am so much happier with my Beloved, happier than I knew was possible until I met him. But he's not here tonight to settle my nerves, and so I have come here to vent.

Thank you, I feel much better now.

A Funny Thing

MonkeyBoy said to me last night, when I insisted on washing his sticky, grubby little face at bedtime:

"When I grow up and I'm a man, I'm going to have chocolate all over my face and I'm going to kiss you."

I'm not sure if that was a threat or a promise - I do think he may have a hard time attracting women with that attitude, though.


The Eagles Return

Or The Eagles’ Return, if you prefer.

By which I mean the eagles have returned from their Brackendale salmon-fest. There’s a lone eagle who surveys its domain from a snag a quarter-mile or so from where I work on Annacis Island, whom I hadn’t seen since early August. It was back yesterday afternoon – I only have 2 one-minute windows as I drive to and from work to spot it, so it may have been home for a while. I haven’t spotted a nest in the area, either, so I don’t know if it’s single, or if this is just its hunting ground.

The nesting pair at my folks’ place on Mayne Island returned a couple of weeks ago, according to my father, one on the Friday before Thanksgiving and the other a couple of days later. They certainly weren’t around the weekend before, when I was there, as the bay was well populated with ducks and seagulls. We see very few waterfowl when the eagles are in residence (OK, seagulls aren’t really waterfowl, but the eagles consider them fair game so they stay away, along with the ducks).

My father has now spent 4 years feeding the eagles that nest in a Douglas Fir near their cabin on Mayne, and has developed quite a bond with them. I suspect they think he’s quite well-trained by now. He and my mother spend 5 days a week there, and time their vacations with the eagles’ annual departure for the salmon run on the mainland. He feeds them salmon or chicken, depending on what’s on sale (I came home from work last week to find a dozen salmon in my freezer because the local Save-On had them on sale for 39 cents a pound). In the spring, when they have young to feed, he makes 4 or 5 trips a day down to the beach. This time of year, when it’s just the two adults on hand, he cuts back to 2 meals a day (3 if they’re really vocal – which is most of the time now). There’s a spot on the rocks below the cabin that is permanently bare of seaweed, sheared clean by their talons as they grab their food and wing back to the nest. It’s fascinating to watch – the eagles perch 30 or 40 feet above the beach, then plummet straight down, wings unfurling as they free-fall. At the last second, they backwing furiously, rotating to a feet-first approach so they can snatch the food in their talons, then glide out across the bay and back, slowly climbing up to their nest, a hundred feet or so above the water.

The eagles recognize my father, and chirp pleadingly whenever they see him. They recognize his car now, and perch in the maple tree above his usual parking spot as he pulls into the driveway. They trust him, The Food Guy, and barely give him time to step back from the feeding spot before plummeting from the trees to claim their prize. If anyone else delivers the food (including my beloved, who is physically very similar to my father – tall, dark, broad-shouldered), the eagles remain on their perches, cocking their heads and peering suspiciously, for 10 or 15 minutes before descending. My father has just enough time to retreat 4 or 5 feet from the food, and is often buffeted by the wind from their wings as they backwing. The rest of us have to be 20 yards away or more before they’ll risk a flying snatch-and-grab off the rocks.

My parents worried for the first couple of years that feeding the resident eagles might put their two cats at risk, but the birds avoid them – they won’t come in for food if the cats are on the rocks nearby. My sister’s black lab, however, they seem to think is an oversized (and not terribly bright) otter, as they regularly try to chase him off his rawhide bone when he’s out on the lawn (eagles are great thieves, and regularly drive herons and otters off their catch).

I figure my father is personally responsible for the lives of at least 2 eagles now. This summer, and 2 years ago, our birds hatched 2 eaglets. This is a relatively common occurrence, but usually the larger eaglet will kill its sibling or drive it from the nest. With my father’s eagles, both young survived each time, due in large part, I suspect, to his regular contributions to their diet. It’s a busy time for all involved, as the young seem to want food on an hourly basis and cry piteously between feedings. The adults aren’t much better, now that they’ve identified their neighbour as an easy mark – they sit in the trees in front of the cabin and set up a great fuss whenever my dad ventures outdoors.

It’s an odd hobby, but it impresses the heck out of visitors, especially those from the Lower 48.


Coyote Musings

I saw a coyote on my way to work this morning, making his way across an empty field. He was moving at what looked to me like a hunting trot, rather than a going-somewhere canter, so I guess he was off to ruin some poor rodent’s day.

I’m always impressed by how intent coyotes look, focused on the far horizon as they travel at a ground-eating lope. You don’t often see a coyote pausing to admire the scenery – they always give the impression of Going Somewhere Important to Do Things That Matter. Very efficient creatures. If they were office workers, they’d be accounting clerks, I think – very task oriented, short and long term goals neatly laid out and adhered to, schedules to be maintained, reports to be generated. Not big partiers, coyotes, although they do have that howling pack thing going for them – the equivalent to Friday nights at the bar after work, perhaps.

They lack the frenzied quality of squirrels and chipmunks, who always seem to have 48 MORE THINGS TO DO THAN CAN POSSIBLY BE ACCOMPLISHED IN ONE DAY!!! yet can stop to gossip at regular intervals. Sales support staff have similar qualities, I’ve noticed.

Not a bad life, that of the coyote. Not a lot of respect, perhaps, but you carve out your niche, build a comfortable routine, stake out your territory. And coyotes can fit themselves in almost anywhere.

But I think I’d rather be a wolf than a coyote. Wolves seem to enjoy themselves more. Sure, when they’re hunting they’re very serious (and deadly), but between kills you see them wrestling, lounging about in the sunshine, playing with the kids. And they get to kill BIG stuff – deer, elk, moose – prey that earns you a little respect around the drinking hole.

Wolves have that devil-may-care aura about them, while coyotes exude diligence and attention to detail. Not that there’s anything wrong with diligence and attention to detail – the world could probably use a lot more of both. But I’m rather sadly lacking in those particular traits, so I’d make a rather poor coyote – the others in my pack would worry about my lack of focus, and send me on those one-day self-help courses.

Wolves, I think, would be more understanding.

October Morning

The sun rises behind Mount Baker these days, putting on a spectacular show. This morning, the first hint of coming dawn was the slow differentiation of the clouds from the mountains below – the jagged peaks remained featureless black, the clouds shifted to dark indigo-grey shot with smouldering magenta bands, broken by the shadows of the Cascade Range.

As I drove westward, the sky lightening steadily behind me, the colours shifted to azure and rose, and spread along the horizon to the north and south. The usually dull concrete high-rises of White Rock, rising ahead of me, glowed as the sun hit them, damask towers with liquid gold windows.

The Gulf Islands, across the Straight, were a study in smoky blues and purples, clinging possessively to their shadows as the rest of the landscape brightened to meet the day.



It's funny how things run in families. Both of my children remind me strongly of my younger sister, in very different ways. My daughter inherited her social skills and her ability to completely monopolize a conversation (in an entertaining way). There's a certain physical similarity as well - my sister was also a petite, blue-eyed blonde. My father regularly calls my daughter by my sister's name, especially when she's in chatterbox mode (which is about 90% of the time).

My son until now has more resembled me (according to my mother, anyhow). But a new side of him is emerging, a competitive streak that duplicates the gritted-teeth determination I witnessed as a child. My sister is 4 years younger than I, and never let that get in her way. She was always so determined to do everything I did, when I did it. As a result, she was quite precocious in most physical activities (although the fact that I was a bookwormish klutz probably didn't hurt her ability to keep up).

My son has always been quite well-coordinated for his age, but in the last couple of weeks he has decided that he should be able to keep up with his sister, despite being 5 years younger and 18" shorter. He refuses to admit that a tricycle is simply not capable of keeping up with a 3-speed bike. He insists that he can play the piano as well as she, although she's had 3 years of lessons and can actually read music. He's ahead of her in computer skills, although the fact that he can't read is sometimes an impediment. And I await with fear the day he realizes that games can have a winner (my sister, as a child, had been known to hurl the board across the room when losing, although I think she's over that phase now. It didn't help that our grandfather took great glee in beating the socks off a child 60 years his junior).

Fortunately for all involved, my daughter is more like me in that regard - very egalitarian. As long as everyone's having fun, she doesn't care who wins. We'd both rather lose the game and keep the playmate. And she doesn't count a 3-year-old as serious competition, so most of the time she doesn't even realize there was anything to win. So I can reasonably hope that they'll both survive the boardgame years.


A Small Sampling of Things I Like

Not an exhaustive list, by any means, nor are these in order of importance. Just a few things I thought of off the top of my head. If I started this fresh tomorrow, at least two-thirds of the items would be different. And the book list is short about 200 titles.

Lord of the Rings
Dragonriders of Pern series
Early Darkover novels
Anne of Green Gables et al
Food in History/Sex in History
Memory, Sorrow & Thorn trilogy
Narnia series
His Dark Materials trilogy
Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion/Endymion/Rise of Endymion
Lamb, Bloodsucking Fiends

Food & Drink
Dark chocolate
Red wine
Coke Classic
Cranberry-raspberry cocktail
Peaches & cream corn
Sun-warmed tomatoes
Marshmallow cookies
Rainbow sherbet
Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding
Warm gingerbread with butter
Homemade cookies

Chris Isaak
Lyle Lloyd Lovett
Bach, esp. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and Air on a G String
Sarah McLachlan
Iron Horse
Old Blind Dogs
Ben Heffner
Barenaked Ladies
Rollings Stones

Lord of the Rings
Indiana Jones
James Bond with Sean Connery or Pierce Brosnan
Chicken Run
The Maltese Falcon
Pulp Fiction
Monty Python & the Holy Grail
Finding Nemo
Anything with Audrey Hepburn
Chariots of Fire
Bend it Like Beckham
Monsters Inc.

Other Stuff
Walking in the woods
Gardening, except weeding
Sex with My Beloved
Christmas Day
Long, hot baths
Foot & back rubs
Black leather boots


Disenchanted Youth

I saw Garden State, a movie about 20-somethings struggling to find their equilibrium, last night and thoroughly enjoyed it (I'm not much of a critic, though, so don't blame me if you watch it on my recommendation and hate it). I thought the characters, especially those played by Zach Braff and Natalie Portman, were very engaging and believably flawed. I fully intend to rent it and watch it again with my beloved when it comes out on DVD.

But ... I couldn't relate to anyone in the movie. Not because I'm too old (I hope) but because I never went through that disenchanted phase that seems to be de rigueur in Hollywood. In my early thirties, after my marriage imploded, yes, but I had a child then, and a mortgage, and not a lot of time for introspection and railing against harsh fate.

My brother, in his 20's, quit his job and joined a commune for a few years. I, on the other hand, along with most of my friends, went to university, got a job, and got married (usually within a year of graduation). We bought apartments, then townhouses, then houses, then a dog or two, hosted dinner parties, had kids, bought a second family car ... got along with our parents and siblings for the most part, happily came home for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays ...

Still, I can see why there's not a lot of that at the movies. It makes for pretty dull entertainment.


Re: The Capybara

It was a goat. A capybara-coloured goat, to be sure, but a goat nonetheless.

Still, I’'d like to clarify that the existence of a capybara on my daily commute is not completely beyond the realm of possibility. Langley is a municipality rich in exotic wildlife. I live less than 5km (that’'s 3 miles for you non-metric types) from the Great Vancouver Zoo, home to a breeding pair of actual, genuine, real-as-you-and-I capybaras. And about 10km further north lies Mountain View Conservation & Breeding Society, a private game farm devoted to breeding endangered species. At my last job, my daily trek took me within a stone’'s throw of a herd of Bactrian Camels, some addax, and an elephant (the late, much beloved Tina, before she was shipped off to the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary).

So a capybara on 16th Avenue isn'’t a total fantasy. It could happen.



SmallBoy has always been very good about going to, and staying in, bed - both for naps and at bedtime. Upon awakening, he plays quietly, talking to himself, until someone comes to retrieve him. Even when he graduated from a crib to a regular bed a few weeks ago, he stayed on his bed until someone came into his room to get him. Some mornings he'd entertain himself for 45 minutes before calling for company.

Until today. This morning, as usual, I woke to the sound of his small voice. A few minutes later he called for me, and I replied that I'd be there in a minute. A few seconds later, my bedroom door opened and he announced, in a somewhat surprised tone "I came out of my room."

The downside to this momentous leap in independence is that, about three and a half minutes after I put him to bed for his nap just now, he proclaimed from the stairs "I'm coming down, mom, I'm all done."

Now that he knows he can get out of bed by himself, he's going to exercise this newfound ability as often as he can. Which means an end to my peaceful afternoons, I fear.

This is the essence of motherhood, I think - publicly applauding their successes while privately mourning their incremental steps away from you.

It's a very strange thing. At the moment your child is conceived, it is completely dependent on you. Sometime after 26 weeks, it reaches the stage where it can live without you, although the physical separation isn't complete until birth. From that point on, every day moves you a little further apart. And this is something a good mother encourages - delights in, even - but with a little pang of sorrow for every step her child takes away from her.


Just Desserts

Having spent a rainy weekend watching Disney-esque movies with the kids, I have to wonder at our insistence on happy endings. Movies, books, TV ... and not just works for children. That I can understand - we want to give our children some sense that the world is a fair and reasonable place, that good deeds get rewarded and the bad guys always get caught in the end. Otherwise, what's the point in playing by the rules and eating your vegetables?

But why do we adults need the same fantasy in our fiction? With very few exceptions, the guy always gets the girl, the villains are hoist on their own petard, and everybody lives happily ever after (except the hoisted bad guys, obviously). But real life isn't that neat and tidy. Even if the guy gets the girl, he's still going to have to deal with mortgage payments and credit car balances, flat tires on rainy days, aging parents, sick children in the middle of the night ... which is not to say such a life is without joy. I love my life, warts and all. But it sure doesn't resemble the Hollywood version.

I know movies and novels are escapist, and all those happy endings are supposed to give us hope, to convince us that we, too, can get through the tough times and look forward to a sunnier tomorrow. But am I the only one who sometimes feels inadequate because my happy ending is occasionally rough around the edges?

I've always been a good girl, relatively speaking, played nicely with others, followed the rules. And, like the movie version, fell in love and married the wrong guy. Not terribly wrong, and if we'd both been slightly different people it might even have worked out. But it didn't, and I suffered through rejection by a loved one, found myself a stronger person after, then met the man of my dreams, the love of my life. I am happier than I ever imagined I could be with him - all very Hollywood indeed.


I still have dishes to wash, feverish children to comfort, an aging dog about whom I am going to have to make an unpleasant decision in the foreseeable future, more bills to pay than money to pay them with.

And I'm perfectly OK with that - I love my life, my man, my children. I wouldn't change a thing (except maybe the money part. But I can handle it). But I wonder why so much of our entertainment makes my life look like the 'Before' picture, instead of the 'Happily Ever After' ending. Has anybody ever really ridden off into the sunset?


Animal Update

My afternoon commute provided more in the way of animalian variety, although no additions to the list of living wildlife.

I saw a number of disgruntled horses huddled under trees, as well as several herds of oblivious cattle, and a few dreary sheep. Still no llamas, despite the fact that my route takes me past a large llama farm and two non-llama farms that nonetheless employ watch-llamas. Perhaps llamas have a better union than cows and horses - getting a clause in your contract that exempts you from working in case of precipitation is definitely a good thing in Vancouver.

A flock of chickens, a few more duck-thingies, Mallards and domestic whites this time, and something that might have been a goat. Or a dog. Or, possibly, a capybara - it was partially obscured by a shrub, so I didn't get a good look at it. Most likely a goat, as it was in a field normally frequented by assorted ruminants. A capybara would be cooler, though.

They Were Scaup

I believe, probably Lesser Scaup.

Wildlife, or a Lack Thereof

I had thought, when I started this blog, that I might report on the variety of wildlife I see on my daily commute. Thus far I have failed to do so, and I planned today to rectify that failure. Nature, however, thought otherwise, and delivered unto the Lower Mainland heavy, misty, blowing rain. Rain of the type that drives every animal with any sense to seek shelter. So I can mainly report on what I did not see on my way to work this morning.

I did not see any sheep, despite passing two sizeable sheep farms. Neither did I see any cows, although I have not noticed that cows are particularly bothered by inclement weather. Perhaps their farmers, hearing the rain pattering insistently against the windows and knowing the hay has all been safely stored for the winter, hit the Snooze button and let the dairy herds sleep in a little. I saw no horses this morning, although there is usually a magnificent heard of blacks scattered across emerald fields at the eastern edge of Boundary Bay, nor did I see any llamas, imperious and sullen. I also saw not a single deer or coyote, although there were 3 blacktails in my favourite wildlife-viewing meadow yesterday afternoon. I also failed to see the bald eagle who usually perches, on clear mornings, in a dead tree a half mile from my office. I suspect that has more to do with the salmon run in Brackendale, however, than today's rain.

So, you ask with bated breath, what did I see this morning? I saw several pining possums and an ex-raccoon, all somewhat the worse for wear, a sodden hawk on a lamp standard, a few crows, and a pair of odd, ducklike creatures. Grebes, perhaps, or coots, or snipes, or tropes, or memes ...


Not My Fault

I am a goody two-shoes. It's not something I'm proud of, or something I consider a personal strength. I can't help it, I was born that way.

For years I thought it was due to my upbringing - my position as eldest of 3 children, my upstanding, responsible parents, my generally conscientious and well behaved relatives. Those may, indeed, be contributing factors, but I have recently realized that, in my case at least, there is a genetic imperative at work here. I couldn't be a hellraiser if my life depended on it.

A number of things have convinced me of this fact:

1. As with any normal teenager, I experimented with alcohol and quickly discovered that after 1 drink I'm relaxed and happy, after 2 drinks I'm talkative and outgoing, and after 3 drinks I throw up. Doesn't matter what I drink, or where, or with whom. The upside to this is that I've never had a hangover. I was also reasonably popular with the drinking crowd as I could always be counted on for a safe ride home. (My father shares this particular intolerance with me, although I understand he tested its limits a lot further in his youth.)

2. I got a tattoo in my mid-20's, when that was still a relatively shocking thing for a young woman to do. Sadly, I was only about 6 months ahead of that particular fashion trend, and now everyone is sporting body art. My discreet dragon hasn't raised an eyebrow in years. Still, the look on my mother's face when I told her was worth it.

3. I recently tried pot for the first time. Somehow, I made it through my teens and 20's without once being offered any sort of illicit substance. I'd heard of pot, and coke, and acid, but I'd never actually seen any of them, or been around someone under the influence. So at the ripe old age of 37, when offered the opportunity to partake, I jumped at the chance (my abstemious behaviour has never been by choice, but was dictated solely by lack of opportunity). And this was when I realized that I am a law-abiding conformist not by choice, or by nurture, but because such behaviour is encoded within my very DNA. Just as I was beginning to feel what my partner in crime assured me was a very good buzz, I was hit by a full-blown migraine. It's been years since I'd had one, and they were always slow to build - I could count on a good 12 hours' warning. This one achieved full force in about 15 minutes. Speaking now from experience, I can state with a high degree of certainty that a migraine is not a sensation that needs to be chemically enhanced.

So I have decided to abandon all attempts at lawlessness - it's just not worth it to me. I will listen enviously as others tell me of their wild adventures and firmly resist their attempts to lure me into joining them. Not because I want to, or because I disapprove, or because I think I'm too good to cut loose. No, I will stand as a shining beacon of law-abiding citizenry because to do otherwise is to deny my genetic heritage (and spend another evening throwing up while everyone around me parties on).


More on Friendship

I occasionally wonder if I'm a good friend. But I realize I don't really know what makes a 'good' friend - I guess everyone has a different set of standards - so it's hard to judge. As I said a few posts back, I've never managed to sustain more than 3 close friendships at a time, and have often had less than that. I have a slightly wider circle of acquaintances - usually people I work with - whose company I enjoy, but I tend to lose track of them, despite promises to keep in touch, within a few months of changing jobs. I've had slightly better luck at sustaining such relationships with the advent of email, but they never go beyond getting together for lunch on a workday and keeping up with the broad details of each others' lives. These are people I enjoyed working with, and occasionally went out with for a drink after work, but we've never been to each others' houses, or socialized on weekends.

I have a larger circle of 'family friends', mostly the children of my parents' close friends. We grew up together, attend weddings and baby showers, and stay in touch largely through our mothers. Once or twice a year, we'll get together en masse, but don't really see each other aside from these group occasions. I have similar relationships with my cousins - my mother keeps me up to date on what they're doing, and we get together at Christmas, or when a more distant relative comes to town. We're all comfortable with each other, and get along well enough, but there's no real connection beyond shared childhood experiences. It's always fun when we get together, to catch up on what everyone's been doing, but I don't miss them between-times.

My sister, who is much more extroverted than I, has at least a dozen close friends, and several dozen more that she sees on a regular basis. I don't know how she keeps track of them all, to be honest. It's a gift she and my mother share.

And despite the fact that friendships made in university are supposed to be some of the most binding, I have completely lost touch with every single person I went to school with. I didn't have a huge circle of friends at UBC, but I ran with a decent-sized crowd. We car-pooled, skipped class, crammed for finals, drank and partied together for 5 years, but within 10 years of graduating, I'd lost touch with them all. Those friendships just drifted apart, all but one for no apparent reason (and that one I encouraged to lapse because it simply demanded more from me than I was able to give at the time).

So, what do I consider qualities of a good friend? Intelligence, a slightly offbeat sense of humour, curiosity about and a willingness to discuss pretty much anything, open-mindedness, compassion, a logical and rational world view ...

I don't expect a shoulder to cry on, although I'm happy to provide one (if somewhat reticent about offering, for fear of intruding where I'm not wanted), or an ear to bend when I'm angry, although I'm a good and sympathetic listener. I have always tended to keep my problems to myself - I feel too guilty for unloading on someone else, even close family, to gain much comfort from opening up. With one exception: My Beloved, with whom I have shared my life for the past 6 years, has shown me, through his gentle, loving, and all-encompassing support, that it is better to talk about my fears and problems, and that a burden is, indeed, lighter when shared by two. I'm even, slowly, starting to open up to my friends.

It's been a slow process, but I think I am a better person and, I hope, a better friend for it.


Not a Domestic Goddess

I fear I shall never win an award (or even be nominated) for my domestic skills. I dislike housework, primarily because it has no logical endpoint. You never reach the point where you don't have to do it any more - you may get a reprieve for a few hours, or even a day if you really go all out, but as soon as you eat, or get changed, or finish the paper, there's more housework to be done. Even as you're putting away the last of the freshly laundered clothes, you're wearing something that needs washing (unless you do laundry naked ... that might do the trick). As a dog owner, I know that 30 seconds after I sweep the floor, there will be new hair laid down. And my son can distribute toys 3 times faster than I can clean them up. It all seems so futile.

I like jobs you can finish and not revisit. Or at least forget about for a few months. I love planning and planting my garden every year, but I hate weeding, so my scrap of a front yard is an ongoing exercise in survival of the fittest. Which leads to an eclectic assortment of plants, to say the least. I'm also a terrible softy, so I play host to a lot of straggling, unproductive greenery - I feel guilty about cutting things back after they've flowered, as if I'm being ungrateful for earlier beauty, and any plant that survives the winter can be certain I won't cull it in the summer, no matter how ugly or out of place it is. I have 2 very large and unattractive yucca plants that came with the house. Over the years, they have flourished and divided. I hate them - they're spiky, they attract aphids, and they create a large dead zone in the middle of the garden where they completely block lesser plants from the sun. Every year I threaten to pull them out, but I feel obliged to find new homes for them instead of just hauling them out by the roots and letting them die. Of course nobody I know wants yuccas. They're ugly, they attract aphids ... so they continue to thrive joyously. And I wonder why my garden never looks like the ones in books.


An Observation

My Beloved, on reading my last post, pointed out a curious fact I had not previously realized: all three of the women I count as close friends are very buxom. I am not. Most emphatically not. Perhaps I'm trying to compensate for something.

It's entirely possible. I used to be a B-cup, just barely. When I was breast-feeding, I enjoyed moving up to a C - I liked the curves and cleavage, and nursing breasts are very firm. Since weaning the Short One a year ago, however, I now shop in the A section. My breasts disappear entirely under a heavy sweater. On the bright side, at 37 I can go braless with impunity, or run down the stairs without taking out an eye. And I can sleep lying on my stomach.

Still, I miss my curvier days.



When I was a child in Montreal, I had 3 best friends: Margaret Henry, Julie MacDonald, and Heather Ball. We were bussed to school (Oak Ridge Elementary, in case you wondered), so Heather was the only one who lived close enough to visit without parental assistance, and she was a healthy bike-ride away. As I recall, her house was either the last or second-to-last stop for the bus. Her dad was (I think) an architect, and they had a very cool house, to my 8-year-old eyes, with a catwalk linking the front and back sections of the upper floor, and a spiral staircase. They also had a pool. Heather had short, curly brown hair and possibly blue eyes.

Julie was the oldest of 5 kids. The next oldest, Kevin, had spina bifida. I don't remember the names or ages of the younger kids. Their house was always fairly noisy and chaotic, but happy. Julie had long, straight brown hair. Kevin and my brother were the same age, and my mom was friends with Julie's mom, so we got together fairly often. I remember spending one summer day catching tree frogs (our front lawn was infested to the point where we children had to walk in front of the mower whenever Dad cut the grass, to spare their little lives). We filled a wading pool with frogs for Kevin, who couldn't chase them himself. We very carefully numbered a goodly selection of frogs, marking their backs so we could track them over the summer. Sadly, we used waterpaints, and never saw any of our sample population again.

Margaret, an elfin blond, was my best friend, and I remember sleeping over at her house at least once. Oddly, I have no memories of the house itself, just of whispering to each other in the dark. I think Margaret had a younger brother, but I could be wrong.

I lost touch with all three when we moved back to Vancouver in 1976, although I have a vague recollection that perhaps Margaret had moved away sometime before that.

Aside from these 3, I have almost no memory of other playmates in Montreal.

And now, some 30 years later, I again have 3 close friends. They all have significant others, so I suppose my total social circle actually numbers 6, but I was struck by the symmetry. Interestingly, we're all within a year of the same age, although I only met one of the three in school. The second I met at my first real job, post-university, although we didn't become real friends until I left that position. The third I met after my first husband and I divorced, and she and her husband were the first (and thus far only) friends my beloved SO and I made together.

And I'm not sure I ever had a 'best' friend - in the sense of someone to whom I could tell anything - until I met my beloved. From him, I have no secrets (except short term, like what he's getting for Christmas), and we have spent many, many hours sharing childhood tales, hopes and dreams, fears and old hurts. I am a better person for this sharing, and by it have gained a much better understanding of who I am and how I work.

Until he came along, I never felt entitled to bother other people with my problems. I also lacked the social skills and emotional savvy to invite confidences from others. I suspect I am not a very good friend for this reason - I fear invading peoples' privacy too much to ask what's bothering them which, I suspect, comes across as indifference. It isn't - I do care about my friends, and would do almost anything for them, but worry too much about intruding where I'm not wanted to actually do much good.

Which probably explains why I've never managed more than 3 friendships at a time. And I should probably be grateful for those.