Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person


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From Cowtown to Fog City

This post is a follow-up to an earlier post, So glad I said yes. If you haven’t read it, you might want to as it provides some context for this post, but you don’t have to.

Today’s post is to share with you some photos of my road trip across the continent when I moved from Calgary, Alberta back to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador with my dear ol’ Dad. Calgary is Cowtown, as it it sometimes affectionately referred to, and St. John’s is Fog City because of a restaurant there took that name in homage (or perhaps to spite?) a regular feature of the climate.

Without further ado…let’s get this show started!

First up…the map!

Caveat: The map isn’t 100% accurate. Unfortunately, even though I adjusted the map to more closely represent the route we took, it didn’t save any of the changes. While it isn’t our actual route, it will help you to see the scale of this trip.

Next, some pictures from Dad’s arrival in Calgary to our two-night lay-over in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where a couple of friends of mine, Rob and Chris, were wonderful hosts. I had been a couple of times before so for this visit they went out of their way to make sure there would be things Dad would enjoy. And he did. There were so many parts of the prairies that he loved. He had never seen such massive, oceanic farm fields before and if I had a dollar for every time he said, “Look at the wheat! That’s wheat! Look at it!” I’d be able to retire. It was so much fun to see a 71-year-old man look at things with the wonder of a child – something we all need to do more often.

 

Next up, our stop in Ottawa and a snippet of upstate New York. We took advantage of the chance to visit with one of my brothers and his girlfriend on Ottawa. (Another brother who lives there was away at the time…I can’t remember why.) From Ottawa, we headed south to the States – into upstate New York, where we spent the night in Canton, NY. We drove over Lake Champlain into Vermont and then to New Hampshire, where we spent another night.

 

The final leg of our journey saw us in Bar Harbor, Maine. At the time, there was a ferry from there to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia so that’s why we were there. It’s a beautiful place in its own right, though, so I recommend visiting if you get the chance. We stopped overnight in the Halifax/Dartmouth area and visited with a couple of my best friends from high school. From there we headed to North Sydney to catch the ferry that would take us to Argentia, NL, which would leave us with only one and a half hours of driving till home sweet home!

 

While the trip is technically over by this point, it wouldn’t be right not to include a picture of Dad proudly displaying his catch of salted cod, drying on the line. ūüôā

2007-09-18_Drying fish 5 - Dad and Mariette

Dad and my sister-in-law admiring some cod he had caught and salted, as part of the food fishery. Paradise, NL. (There has been a moratorium on commercial fishing of cod since 1992.)


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A random flash of childhood memories

I can’t be more than five or six. Johnny Drake and his sister, and maybe some other kids from the bottom of the hill, came to ask if we wanted to go swimming at Clark’s Pond, or was it Shoal Pond?¬†I knew I wasn’t allowed to go because there weren’t any adults. They were a couple of years older, but still not old enough. I loved swimming, though,¬†so I went. Now I’m hiding, still wet,¬†under my bed in my favourite swimsuit, black on the bottom and white with black alphabet letters scattered around on¬†top. I can hear them calling for me. I know I’ll be in trouble when they find me.

***Click***

I’m maybe 10. I’m sitting in my favourite tree, on my favourite branch. Often I climb trees with my brothers, but today I’m by myself. I like it up here alone.

***Click***

I’m eight. I’m in my white communion dress and veil. My Aunt Tess gives me a gift, which I take in my white-gloved hands. It’s a pretty white rosary and a prayer book.

***Click***

I’m 12. It’s recess, or maybe before school starts. The older¬†boys are picking on Jerry again. They are so mean. They are in a circle and throwing him back and forth between them, laughing. It’s not funny. It’s horrible. There are so many kids around, older mostly because we are in grade 7 and the school goes up to grade 12, but nobody does anything. I watch and then, unable to bear it anymore,¬†I scream, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” They stop. Everyone stops. I don’t normally speak. I’m usually very quiet so this is not normal to them. Or to me. Then one of the boys, Chickie,¬†comes over to me, puts his hand around my collar and roughly pushes back against the cement wall behind me. “You’re lucky your father’s the principal here.” Words come out, but I don’t know what I say. He glares and I’m afraid, but I do my best to try not to look it. After what seems like an eternity, he lets me go and walks away. Jerry is nowhere to be seen.

***Click***

I’m about 11. It’s winter and the school is out for a sledding day on the hill to the north of the field by the school. Charlene and I are on¬†a red¬†Crazy Carpet. Is it mine or is it hers? She’s on the back and the toes of my boots are stuck through the handle. The cold air whips my face as we careen down the hill, gaining air from snow-covered bumps and laughing as only children can, even when we land hard.

***Click***

I was seven. It was Boxing Day. The phone rang early. It was still dark. My Mom was crying. There was a fire in the Goulds, in the Home where¬†Aunt Normie, her youngest sister,¬†lived. She didn’t make it. None of them did. My Mom was sad a lot after that.

***Click***

I was six. We are on our way back from the Goulds to St. Lawrence. We stop in to see Aunt Normie on our way. She gives the wettest, sloppiest kisses,¬†and¬†she laughs and smiles a lot so, even though I complain about the kisses, I don’t mind. She’s a grown up, but she’s more fun that regular grown ups.

***Click***

***Click***

***Click***

***

 


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A (Satur)day in the life…

My plan this weekend was to hibernate. Last weekend was pretty busy, so I¬†was going to just spend this weekend¬†doing stuff I¬†needed to do but didn’t¬†last weekend and also work on¬†figuring some stuff out for my blog.

I had a nice, leisurely start to the day today – I even slept in until almost 9:30! WHAT?!?! Crazy. But it’s MY Saturday, so I counted it as a win.

I started¬†picking out some pic’s for an upcoming post and, that done, figured it was time to clean the ol’ bod and¬† hop in the shower.

Then my friend Carol called.¬†She invited me over for dinner and¬†games tonight. I was¬†still committed to my “just me” plan so I thanked her, but said I couldn’t. Then, somewhere in the¬†conversation, the¬†possibility of meeting for lunch came up. Well, I figured,¬†I have to go out for groceries anyway, so why not meet up with Carol for lunch, too?

After we agreed on a place and time, I fixed a quick breakfast and did a little more work on the post before getting ready and heading out.

Lunch was lovely¬†and somehow or another, we ended up at¬†Art Is In Bakery. They have an¬†AMAZING flourless chocolate cookie. I only had it once and was quite anxious to try it again.¬†Carol’s Art-is-in¬†drug of choice is the sticky bun. She didn’t have to be home to¬†work on tonight’s dinner until 3:00, so off we went.

As usual, there was a huge line up. Two, actually – one for to-go orders and one for eat-in orders. Carol suggested I scout out up front to see if they even had anything left. (Two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon¬†is pretty late to be getting there…it’s a bit of a¬†Russian roulette game cuz you don’t know what,¬†if anything, you’ll get at that hour.)

I couldn’t see everything, but there were a few pastries and treats so I figured it would be worth waiting for. As we got closer, Carol noticed there was one single, solitary sticky bun left. We both figured there’d be no way it would be there by the time we got to the counter. Happily, we were wrong!! It was hers! I, alas, did not fair so well. No flourless chocolate cookies. Don’t be too sad for me – I made it out of there with one of their amazing brownies and a new-for-me piece of brownie cheesecake. (I’m not sure if I’ll have one today and one tomorrow, or just give in and have both today for “supper”…hey – don’t judge! ūüėČ )

After that I dropped Carol off, headed for groceries and now am home to start my “me” weekend. ūüôā


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So glad I said yes

In 2007 I decided to move from Calgary, Alberta back to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. I sold most of my things and shipped a bunch of what I wanted to keep. The rest was packed into the hatch and back seat of my cute little blue Chevrolet Optra, whom I had named Angel.

When I told my Dad that I was going to be driving across the continent, he threw out the idea of flying up to Calgary to drive back with me.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you that my initial reaction was less than enthusiastic. Well, to Dad I was all “Yeah, that would be great!!” but inside there was a bit of a battle. On the one hand, it would have been nice. But, on the other…

In case you aren’t aware, that trip is over 6,000 km. That’s a long haul. The most time Dad and I had spent together, just the two of us, before then was probably…hmmm… I don’t really know. When I was around 8 he took me with him for about a week when he had to travel for work. I (maybe we?) stayed with one of his sisters so it was really only the travel time that we had together. The drive was about 5 hours, so both ways that was about 10 hours we had for just the two of us. Since I was 8 at the time, I doubt there was much scintillating conversation whereby we learned a lot from each other. Other than that, for the rest of my life, it was maybe only an hour here or there when we spent time alone together.

So the first concern I had was: What on this little green planet are we going to talk about for six thousand kilometres??? That wasn’t a huge concern – both Dad and I have been blessed with the gift of gab, so it wasn’t too likely there would be many moments of silence, certainly not at the beginning. But what about the rest of the trip?

My next and bigger concern was the fact that Dad was a smoker. I mean a chimney. Two packs a day, easy. It was not uncommon for him to light his next cigarette off the one he was just finishing up. Assuming he slept for 8 hours a day, that left 16 hours for smoking. At 20 cigarettes per pack, that is 40 cigarettes per day. 40 cigarettes divided by 16 hours is 2.5 cigarettes per hour. Dad wasn’t a whip-out-the-cigarette-and-have-it-gone-in-two-deep-inhales kinda guy. He enjoyed his cigarettes. But I’m not sure how long each one lasted with him. I knew, though, that it was a while.

Since there would be no smoking in my car, I had visions of having to stop for 10 minutes every half hour the whole way across. We’d either never get there or I’d pitch him into the middle of one of the plentiful endless prairie fields or into one of the Great Lakes along the way. Neither was a very good option.

As such, when he said he would let me know for sure later on, the “I just wanna get home” part of me hoped he’d decide not to come. Of course, there was the other part of me that told me I was selfish and this would be a great chance to spend some time together – my first time as an adult to really get to know him.

I didn’t know which side I wanted to win.

When he still hadn’t made up his mind about two weeks before I was due to leave, I thought I was in the clear. It would be too expensive to get a last-minute flight in August so that would be that. Fair enough.

Then he called a few days later and said he was coming. D’oh. OK…time to switch gears!

In my next post I’ll tell you more about the trip itself. It really was amazing.

But that’s not what’s important for today. The important part for today is that in October 2008 my Dad passed away from lung cancer. I had no idea when we set off from Calgary on August 24, 2007 that this would be the one and only trip Dad and I would ever take, that it would become an absolutely treasured memory.

I’m so glad that I didn’t try to dissuade him. I’m so glad that he decided to come. I often look at the pictures from that trip and feel so very grateful and blessed to have had that time with him. I absolutely cannot imagine a version of my life where I didn’t.

If you have any such opportunities to spend time with people you love, take advantage of them. Enjoy them in the moment and cherish them when they are just memories.

Note: Dad didn’t actually request to stop that often. In fact, there were very few stops just so he could have a cigarette. Most were for potty breaks, gas or for meals. Here are a couple of our break stops.

Dad and Lobby having a snack in Moose Jaw

A quick stop in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The stuffed lobster belonged to a colleague. I kidnapped him so I could take pictures of him along the way.

Dad sipping a cool beverage in New York State

Papa enjoying a sodie pop in upstate New York.

Cape Breton Dad

A smoke break on Cape Breton Island. Beauty of a day!!

 


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Le spring…she has sprung!

It worked! It worked! The letter to Mother Nature’s admin assistant worked!

Praise be! It was 13*C at one point when I looked at the thermometer today. AND it was sunny.

Hot diggity dog!

It called for a little road trip, so I picked up a friend of mine and off we went to the lovely town of Perth, Ontario!

Here are a couple of pictures to prove it. If you want to learn more about the town itself, check it out at www.perth.ca!

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A neat indoor courtyard at the restaurant where we had lunch.

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A fountain in the courtyard.

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The Tay River, overflowing its banks.

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Tiny island in the river.

 

 


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A Letter to Mother Nature’s Administrative Assistant

To Whom it May Concern;

This letter is written to address a scheduling oversight on your part.

I understand that you are responsible for Mother Nature’s scheduling calendar and I can only imagine how hectic a job that is. She is one seriously busy lady. Your job must be difficult enough¬†when things go smoothly, but as we all know, things in nature rarely go smoothly¬†so on top of your regular duties, you must have a lot of rescheduling to do.

With all of those things going on, it is easy to understand how some things slip through the cracks. One of the things that appears to have slipped through those cracks is the arrival of spring in¬†eastern Canada. I hope it’s not being presumptuous, but I¬†have attached a couple of photos to show you what I mean.

Because I know how busy you and Mother Nature must be, I have tried to be patient. While others around me have grumbled and complained these last few weeks, I put on a cheery smile and tried to reassure them all that things would soon change, that pleasant weather was surely just around the corner.

But I can’t do that any more. When I tried it a yesterday at work, several of them banned together and locked me in the cleaning supply closet. I was there for a few hours until the cleaning lady came to put her supplies away. Even though she was quite surprised to see someone in among the brooms and mops, she was obviously also quite frustrated with my Pollyanna attitude because as soon as she saw that it was me in there, she¬†hurried¬†to close the door¬†and lock me in again. Thankfully I shot my foot out in time before the door latched and I was free. (Don’t worry: It will only be in a cast for four weeks.)

Anyway, as you can see, things have gotten rather…uncomfortable…here. While at the hospital, I tried to figure out what could have happened. After all, spring was due to be here on March 20th. That’s four whole weeks ago. Considering that a season is only three months long, that means it’s already one-third over and it’s not even here yet.

They had the weather channel on the TV in the hospital emergency room and you would not believe how many different weather stories they covered in the eight hours I was there! How silly of me! You of all people would know how many stories there are! Please, pardon me…

At any rate, as I watched the stories, I couldn’t help but think again how busy you must be, which made me think about how busy I was at my job. Then I remembered that I had forgotten to do something before I got thrown into the cleaning closet. At that moment, I thought, “Why, I do believe I’ve figured out what has happened to the weather! It fell through the cracks!”

And that’s when I thought I should write you this letter. From one office worker to another – to give you a little reminder before anybody comes and throws you into a cleaning closet.

On that note, if you wouldn’t mind popping into Mother Nature’s calendar and¬†scheduling “Arrival of Spring in Eastern Canada” for as soon as possible, I would very much appreciate it. It would sure be lovely to have some pretty flowers to look out at while I’m laid up at home the next few weeks.

Yours with appreciation,

She who wishes to avoid being locked in cleaning supply closets

PS: If you can’t manage to schedule the whole of eastern Canada right away, could you at least try to squeeze in the Ottawa valley? Thanks much!


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Commitment issues, anyone?

Today’s blog assignment is about being inspired by social media. I was skeptical cuz that seemed like a bit of an oxymoron. But that might just be because my breakup with Facebook is still raw. ūüėČ Either way, I wasn’t going to let that get the best of me!

In the email, they gave a few tweets to pick from. The first one…the verrrrrry first one made me laugh. Out loud. To myself.

 

Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  We have a winner!

I just read a few of the comments and for a lot of people it seems this tweet is mostly about the tattoo part. And, you know, maybe it is. After all, I don’t know this Abby Heugel gal. But to me it’s about making a decision and sticking with it – reallllllllllllllllllllllly committing. And, boy, does that resonate with me!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a total commitment-phobe. I’ve committed to lots of things – like potty training, personal hygiene and chocolate. Just to name a few. But man oh man…there are times when I cannot make a decision to save myself.

Come to dinner with me sometime! I’ll change my mind about what I’m going to order about five times before I actually commit to it. And even then, there’s no guarantee that I won’t ask the server if I can¬†change my mind before she heads back to place the orders. True story. And if you’ve ever eaten out with me, you likely know that. (Feel free to comment to that effect.) If it hasn’t happened yet, don’t feel slighted – it will come.

I remember one time, in fact, when I was a kid and¬†I was in Aylward’s Mini Mart to get a chocolate bar. I must have been maybe in my early teens, or maybe a¬†tween (even though we weren’t called tweens back then…). I had already been thinking about what kind of bar I wanted before it was my turn. As I got closer and closer to the counter, the panic started to mount. “Which one do I want?!?!?!?! Which one???!!! Oh my….WHICH ONE!!!!!”

Then it was my turn. I still didn’t know. I picked something. I’m sure I ate it. But I don’t know what it was. And I don’t know if it was what I really wanted. But it was my turn and I had to choose. Sadly, that’s not the only time I’ve had the “Which chocolate bar do I want” conundrum. I’ve often wondered, “Why can’t there just be two options? Like plain chocolate or chocolate with nuts.” It would be easy then. The question would just be, “Am I in the mood for nuts or not?” Voil√†!

Yeah…not so fast, Lucy. I know it wouldn’t be as easy as all that. What if I picked plain, but I really¬†did want nuts? Nuts and chocolate are¬†soooo good! But what if I picked nuts, and it turned out I only wanted the silky smoothness of melting chocolate on my tongue? WILL IT EVER END?!?!?!?!?

No…it will not. So, I feel kinda kindred to Abby. Not only do I not want a tattoo, I absolutely, unequivocally should¬†not¬†get one.