Aruba, 2012

Aruba, 2012

Monday, April 14, 2014

Just Call Me Snow White...

When I was a teenager my mom and I spent hours upon hours building up a relationship with the wildlife that frequented our sundeck.  I spent several hours each day for a week or two one summer sitting on the sundeck with a book in one hand and birdseed sprinkled along the other, ending in a pile of seed in my palm, and seed scattered nearby.  It took a while, but I got the Chickadees to happily land on my hand and eat to their hearts content, and even got a couple to land on my shoulder with regularity.  They are so small and so lightweight that I could barely feel their little talons on my skin.  For years after that summer the Chickadees would land on my hand looking for food.

I spent hours getting the little brown squirrels to trust me, especially one I named Skittles, and like the Chickadees he would climb up to my shoulder and chatter away whilst devouring whatever treats I had with me.  He even brought his babies to meet me, teaching them that this was the easy way to food.  Their mom would stay a few feet away, occasionally braving the journey to my outstretched hand only to grab a nut and dash to safety, but the babies and Skittles would sit right next to me, or on my arm and chow down.

I think it was mom who first convinced our favorite Steller's Jay "Buddy" to eat from her hand, but I was quick to join in the fun.  He became so tame that he'd land on my hand or wrist and chow down on whatever seed or nuts I had on hand... even if they were meant for the Chickadee's or squirrels. In addition to food and mimicking sounds, Buddy liked having his head scratched.  He liked to sit on the bracket that once held our air conditioner just outside the eating area, and receive his meal through the window.  If he saw that mom or I were home and horror of horrors, NOT feeding him, he would sit on the bracket, shriek, and tap his beak against the window to let us know he was hungry.  If this didn't work, he would follow us from room to room outside the window, and squawk as loudly as he could, going through his repertoire of imitations of other birds and man made devices like phones until we acknowledged him.  He especially liked to sit in the fir tree just outside the kitchen window and watch us, becoming increasingly cheeky if he was ignored.

My single most memorable instance involving a feathered friend from the great outdoors involved an entirely different type of bird, and for years afterwards this bird and his friends and relations were sure to remind me of the incident frequently.  One afternoon while mom was at work my dad and I were in the family room, likely working on homework - mine the studying for a test type, his more of the marking tests variety - when we heard the oddest sound.  Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding... it continued until I finally got up and followed the noise to the kitchen eating area.  A tiny little green hummingbird had somehow gotten into the kitchen through the hole in the screen door and couldn't find a way back out.  He was repeatedly flying into the window, rather persistent in his quest to get outside.  When I approached he stopped and sat on the window ledge.  He made no protest as I scooped him up, then checked him for any sign of injury.  He let me gently pat his tiny head and back, as his heartbeat thrummed against my palm. He seemed fine, if a bit stunned, so I carefully carried him over to Dad and told him what I'd found.
"Wanna see?" I asked, lifting my top hand to show him my quarry.

"Hmmm.  Uh huh," was his enthusiastic and clearly intrigued response.
"You know, Mom would think this was awesome..."
"Mmm hmmm."

I gave the hummingbird one last pat as I opened the screen door, and he sat on my hand until we cleared the doorway, where he cocked his head at me once, then took off to the safety of the nearest tree.  I figured that was the end of it, thought about the amazing speed at which his heart seemed to beat, and smiled as I went back inside.  From that day until the day we moved out of the house, EVERY TIME I was on the sundeck and there was a hummingbird around it would either hover directly in front of me or buzz past my head missing by mere inches.  We would joke that the humming birds were dive-bombing me, and it really seemed to be the case.  They didn't do it to anyone else, just to me, as if that one little hummingbird had told all his friends and future relations about me and they were doing fly-bys to thank me for helping him.  

Don't ever tell me that small critters like squirrels and birds aren't intelligent.  I had Chickadees, Brown Squirrels, Steller's Jays and Hummingbirds who remembered me year after year and brought their babies to me to teach them that I was a friend who they could trust.  The hardest part of leaving that house was knowing that my furry and feathered friends were being left behind and it would take months of patience and calm determination to ever build up that kind of relationship and trust with wildlife again.

To this day, whenever I hear the telltale thrum of a hummingbird flying overhead I reflexively duck ever so slightly, and then I smile as I think of my little green friend and imagine him telling the other neighbourhood hummingbirds all about the girl who gave him a helping hand just as I tell others about the wonder I felt holding such a perfect and tiny creature in my hand for those few minutes.  Regardless of the mood I am in, I cannot hear that sound without smiling.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tales From The Fishtank

Happy April Fools Day!

I know I ought to be writing a brilliant and insightful post right now, but I've been chasing Pokemon characters in Google Maps on my iPhone.  You never know how long these April Fools Day gags will continue, and I've caught 47 of  the 150 Pokemen. :)

Since most of my attention is otherwise occupied with this extremely important and time sensitive task, here is my favorite April Fools Day prank followed by a brief look into the lives of my fish. (No, really!)

My all-time favorite elaborate April Fools Day hoax:
The Spaghetti Harvest, The BBC 1957.


Tales From The Fishtank:

From FB before the Great Fish Plague of 2014:
I released the baby guppies into the main tank as I couldn't just pick a few to keep in sequester, so i figured they could fend for themselves in the plants and let nature take it's course - some will survive, some won't. They were all swimming around the top of the tank when I went across the room to use my computer. About 40 minutes later I looked over and couldn't see a single baby fish. Not one. I went over to the tank thinking there was no way all 40 babies could have been eaten in 40 minutes, and boy was I right. All of the babies (and I do mean ALL of them) were swimming in a group in the corner behind the plants and the Plecostomus. They seem to have adopted the Pleco as their Nanny/Guard Dog and whenever he moves, so do they, following as one. It's quite cute really.

From FB a couple of months ago after the Great Fish Plague of 2014 ,which only Pleco survived:Right now Pleco is going to town on a piece of broccoli. I think this is mostly due to the fact that I took away the tattered remains of the slice of zucchini that he devoured while I was at work today. The day before yesterday he discovered that he could eat the skin of the zucchini as well as the innards, and boy does he like it!
Also, today he murdered the last remaining live plant that was in his tank... he thrashed his tail against it until it fell apart and had no hope of survival, so it too has been removed... so much for things he can hide behind. Now all he's got is a TARDIS (it's tall, but not sufficiently wide enough to properly hide a pleco) and a bubble curtain (that he rearranged twice to form an arch instead of a solid curtain of bubbles from the bottom of the tank up). He's "hiding" under the bubble arch now, and newsflash: I CAN SEE HIM!

More recently: 
My little orange guppy has decided that unlike the 4 new guppies, he is a pink danio. He keeps following the 3 new pink danios around and trying to "school" with them, while they're like..
"Uh... what's up with this dude following us? Yo, guppy! You're a GUPPY, not a danio!"
"But I wanna play with you!"
"Dude! you're not one of us. Go play with the other guppies."
"But we're practically the same colour and everything! Puhleeeeeeze?!"
"Meh, fine, you can follow us around if you really want to, I guess..."

Meanwhile there's a new yellow guppy, and the orange guppy (the veteran) keeps looking at him like he's doling out warnings.
Yellow: "OOOOOOHHHH! Look! A big spotted rock! I'm gonna check it out!"
Orange, while following danios around: "Dude, you don't wanna go over there..."
Yellow: "I think some food fell on this rock... I'm gonna chow down!"
Orange: "That isn't a rock..."
Yellow: "Oh! Look there's a space under the rock... I'm gonna go check it out!"
Orange: "Not a good idea..."
Pelco: "Now seems like a good time to stop contemplating my nonexistent navel in complete silence and stillness... I think I'll go for a swim. VOOSH!"
Yellow: "YOWZA! OMG I'm gonna die!!!!!!! AAAACK! What happened to my rock!?"
Orange: "I told you so!"

That brings us up to today.

I am pretty sure I have a pair of gay guppies.  I have only male guppies as female guppies cause the male guppies to go gaga and chase them relentlessly until they finally stress out so much that they die.  Also, female guppies have babies, LOTS OF BABIES, and I just don't have a big enough tank to go through that again.  My point is, the guppies I have are all male.  Two of them seem to be pretty chummy.  At first I thought it was a one-sided thing, as one of the boys has a dark belly, making him look a little like a female guppy...  to a myopic and horny male guppy that is...  So I thought: okay, dude is horny, so he starts to chase the only fish that looks like it might possibly be a viable route to procreation... but I watched them closely today and the fishy affection is clearly not one-sided.

My favorite fish in the tank right now are the baby Panda Cory Catfish.  They are very cute little guys who scour the bottom of the tank for any food that the others don't eat before it hits bottom.  There is a small problem with these adorable little fish though: they blend into the gravel so well that I keep thinking I've lost a couple of them.  The other day I frantically searched the tank, moving plants and other decorations, but could only find two of the four babies.  Resigning myself to the idea that the other two didn't make it, I finally gave up.  Two hours later, I looked in the tank and saw three of the little buggers.  I can only seem to find three at a time right now, so I don't know if I have three or four, but given their incredible ability to blend into the gravel when not in motion, I am holding out hope that the fourth is still alive and swimming.  He or she could always be hiding under Pleco. :)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Will Wonders Never Cease?

It may be cheating a bit to post a story I wrote years ago here, but there's a story to go with the story, and that's new at least.

I wrote the story "Will Wonders Never Cease?" for an art history class many years ago.  The assignment was to write a story that encompassed the mood of a work of art selected from our Art History text.  I chose Jess Collins' "Will Wonders Never Cease?" 1969, and drew upon memories of the adventures that my childhood friend Rachel and I had when we stayed at her family cabin on Galliano Island to create a tale that I felt suited the painting.   I posted the story on my old website, then I moved and promptly forgot about it and the other writings there.  A few years ago I got a message on Facebook from Gioia, the author of the poem that I quoted at the end of the story.  She is now a teacher in Surrey. When we were in high school, we both entered a district writing contest, for which her poem was picked and published in an anthology, while mine was not quite up to par and did not make it... I have no idea which poem I entered that year, but clearly Gioia's and a few others' were better. :)  In college and university I had a habit of including quotes or poems in essays and papers, and this story was no exception.  I had copied her poem into one of my many journals full of poems that I enjoyed, and thought it fit well with the story.

Gioia was teaching a lesson to her class about social media, warning them that once something is on the internet, it stays there.  She Googled herself in class, telling them that she was usually rather careful about what she put out there, but that even so, she'd likely find something unexpected about herself online.  Sure enough, she found my story with her poem quoted.  She tracked me down and we conversed a bit online.  She assured me that she didn't mind her poem being used in the story online (which was a good thing as I wasn't sure even I could access my Shaw account to change the webpage!) and said it was a great example for her class, not only for the lesson on online content, but of how to credit the original author when using a quote in your own work.
Here is the story (and Gioia's wonderful poem) for your enjoyment.

Will Wonders Never Cease?

By Janine Sebastian

Will Wonders Never Cease, by Jess Collins
via famousartistsbirthdays

When I was a child, my brothers and I would spend hours upon hours playing outside, dreaming up adventures and searching for treasures. Every time one of us brought one of our found treasures to Daddy, he would say the same thing: “Will wonders never cease?”

He would ask us about the treasure, where we found it, what we thought it was. Then he would examine it and either confirm our consensus, even when it was far fetched, or he would tell us a story about the real origin of the object.

When I was seven, we spent the summer up at my Uncle Joel's cabin on Galliano Island. We had a great time searching the shore for lost treasures and mystical creatures. Daddy told us a story of how he had seen a beautiful mermaid in the nearby cave once. He spent years searching for her, but never saw her again.

My oldest brother Jamie, who was nine at the time, swore he saw Daddy's mermaid hiding in the nearby cave. Lorne and I searched and searched but we never found her. He also thought that by standing in knee deep water, trusty net in hand, he would one day catch a fish big enough for our supper. Eight year old Lorne swore that there was a treasure buried somewhere on our beach… Uncle Joel was surprisingly understanding about the many holes we dug in his property. He had only two conditions on our digging there. The first condition was that should we find it, we had to share the treasure evenly, without fighting over who got what. The second condition was that any hole we dug, had to be refilled before the next one was begun. Being of reasonable mind, we agreed.

Once when we were combing the beach for shipwrecked treasures, I found a small tooth caught between a rock and some driftwood. I took the tooth home and showed it to Daddy, asking him what kind of animal it came from. He looked at my treasure and exclaimed “Will wonders never cease!”

“Oh Daddy, don't be silly. Is it a sea monster's tooth? Jamie says it's a wolf's tooth, but wolves don't walk on the beach… do they?” Before he could answer, I continued with my monologue. “And Lorne says it's from a baby sea monster, like the Ogopogo. I think they're both wrong,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“Do you now? And what do you think it is, Princess?”

“I think it's a dolphin's tooth. We saw those dolphins last week, and they had teeth this big. Do you think the tooth fairy visits dolphins too?”

How ever did Daddy put up with my constant stream of questions? I'm sure he often felt like he was under interrogation, yet he was always patient in his answers.

“Well Princess, I think you're right. It looks like either a dolphin or a shark's tooth. And there's probably a dolphin out there with a tooth missing just like you have. I imagine the tooth fairy left him a nice fish in exchange for it, then accidentally dropped it on her way up to the cabin to take your tooth.”

Pleased with his answer, I slid from his lap, and went in search of my older brothers to gloat. I love my brothers, but they've always had the propensity to think they are the authority on everything. It was nice to be proven right for a change.

One afternoon, we were on the beach with Daddy, and he pointed out an orange starfish that was stuck to one of the rocks in the shallow water. After assuring us that it couldn't hurt us, we each reached out to feel it's slimy surface. Daddy bet us that we couldn't find eight different types of starfish on the beach. The wager: if we found them, he's take us out for ice cream at the end of the week. If we couldn't find them, then we had to help him wash his car. Lorne tried to pry the orange starfish off the rock, to start a collection, but Daddy said that the starfish needed to be in the water to survive. He gave us his Polaroid camera to take pictures of each of the starfish we found, making us promise to put them back as soon as the pictures were taken.

The next day, Jamie was reaching for a purple starfish, which was partially hidden under a particularly large, slimy rock. We couldn't take a picture of it unless we could get it out in the open where we could see it. Well, he reached too far and fell in the water with a big splash. We all laughed and he sloshed onto the shore triumphantly holding the elusive purple starfish in hand. We took the picture, and took turns holding the starfish, before returning him to the general location where we found him.

It took us three days to complete our task, but in the end, we had pictures of eight different starfish, each a unique colour or shape. When we marched into the house on the third day, with the photo's in hand, and triumphant grins on our faces, Daddy made his usual exclamation.

“Will wonders never cease! I guess I owe you all some ice cream sundaes.”

On the drive to the ice cream parlor, I asked him why he always said “Will wonders never cease” when one of us showed him a treasure. He said that it came from a line “Will wonders never cease to amaze.” Then he explained that it meant that he was amazed that we could always find something new and interesting to fascinate us. He told us that when he was a boy he and Uncle Joel and Aunt Elizabeth would do the same thing, always finding some way to entertain themselves during the long summer. It was hard to picture them as children, but if I tried really hard, I could imagine myself as my namesake, Aunt Elizabeth, looking at all the little things with wonder.

One afternoon, we were all sitting down to lunch, when we noticed that just outside the window, there seemed to be a constant flow of minks between two large rocks in the brush. Daddy said that years ago someone on the island had been breeding minks, and a few of them had mysteriously gotten loose. That was why there were so many of the creatures wandering the island now. The look on Uncle Joel's face when Daddy told us this, was quite suspicious. I asked him if he knew how the creatures had gotten out, and he nonchalantly claimed that when he and Daddy were children, someone opened one of the cages and set the doomed animals free. Somehow, with the infinite wisdom of a precocious seven year old, I knew that they had something to do with it. When I asked if it was him that had opened the cage, Uncle Joel had the following response:

“I swear to you, neither your father or I ever touched the latch on that cage… your Aunt Elizabeth however…”

“It was Aunt Liz? But she said you and Daddy were the ones that always did things to get into trouble.”

“In many instances we did, but in this case our hands were clean.”

“True enough, but it didn't take much persuading to convince Liz that they were doomed to become fur coats if they stayed in that cage…” Daddy grinned, as if he could picture the day clearly. “As I recall, we had to hold her back until the coast was clear, she was so eager to set them free.” Daddy and Uncle Joel laughed at the memory.

Jamie and I watched the creatures weave through the brush, and noticed that there was one mink that seemed to stay in the same place all day. He was tucked into a crevice in the rock, and the other critters just kept scurrying past him. We became determined to find out what was wrong with him that he would just huddle in one spot while the others appeared so active.

Jamie devised a plan, to surround the mink's hiding place, and spook him out into his net. We clambered outside, chasing away all of the minks except the one we had dubbed Fred. Fred remained huddled in his hiding spot. When we had each blocked the other possible exits, Lorne started making a ruckus, and lightly kicking at the rock. Fred scampered out from under the rock and right into Jamie's waiting net. Jamie scooped him up, and we all crowded around to see our new captive. Fred just stared up at us, and after a few minutes of wriggling in attempt to get away, he seemed to see that there was no escape, and he stilled. Jamie carefully reached into the net and pulled out the small animal. We noticed at once that one of his hind legs was bent at an odd angle, and had dried blood on it. I began to cry, and insisted on being the one to hold him. Jamie handed Fred to me, and I tenderly held him close, my tears falling on his soft fur.

Whenever one of us was injured, we would go to Daddy, because he always seemed to know what to do to make everything all right. So we did just that. I carried Fred into the house, while the boys hurried ahead to find Daddy. Seeing my face, Daddy got this look on his face that he always got when he saw me hurting. He pulled me close and looking at the mink, tried to reassure me.

“Will wonders never cease” he said gently. “It's all right baby, we'll take him to Doc Bennet, and she'll fix him right up, okay?” Doc Bennet was the town vet. “Then we'll see what it will take to get this little fella back on his feet.”

We all clambered into the car and made the journey to the vets office on the other side of the island. I spent the whole trip crooning to Fred, telling him that we would take good care of him and that he would be all right now.

Doc Bennet treated the wound and wrapped the leg in a tiny cast. A few hours later, upon the ardent assurances of my brothers and I that we would take care of Fred while he was healing, she sent us all home with a bag of feed and orders that Fred be kept inside until it was time to take the cast off.

For the next month, Fred was a household pet. He would follow us around the house, hide in our sock drawers, and cuddle with us at night. Even Momma took a liking to him. He would sit on her shoulder while she read in front of the fire in the afternoons. We would leave him in the house during our adventures on the beach.

We continued to bring home treasures and snapshots of creatures such as hermit crabs and seals. Lorne had the misfortune to discover of a group of jelly fish. He was searching the shallows for an elusive hermit crab, when he stepped onto a clear jelly fish. We took a quick picture before rushing him up to the house. Momma was there when we arrived and quickly rushed him to the doctor to treat the painful sting. We learned to be careful not to touch any more jelly fish.

We befriended a sea lion who liked to splash us and quickly dip under the water, only to pop up ten feet away. We would throw stones and drift wood and he would “chase” the objects, popping up right where they hit the surface of the water. He never got less than three feet away from us, but he was a regular playmate for two weeks straight.

With the aid of his net, Jamie caught a number of small fish and crabs, which we took pictures of and then set free. I found a handful of perfect shells and even a sand-dollar. Each new treasure was met with the familiar phrase from Daddy, “Will wonders never cease.”

At the end of the summer, we had a box full of treasures, and an album full of pictures of the critters we had discovered. Among our treasures were a number of special finds. A rusted nail still in a chunk of petrified wood, which we imagined came from a shipwrecked galleon full of golden doubloons; a handful of perfectly shaped, colourful shells; chunks of smoothly shaped driftwood which Uncle Joel claimed were perfect for whittling. The dolphin tooth, my most prized discovery, had a small hole drilled into the base of it, and it hung on a chain around my neck.

The last week of our vacation, Fred's cast came off. We all gave him a tearful farewell, and set him free in the back yard. He visited us a couple of times each day, and Uncle Joel promised to keep an eye on him for us during the winter.

The day before we left for home, we went wandering the shore, knowing in our little hearts that it would be the last time that summer. We were about to go inside for lunch, when I happened to stumble while climbing between two large logs. I was uninjured from my fall, and while I was trying to regain my footing, my hand touched smooth glass. I had found a bottle with a message in it! This was the ultimate discovery, as we had each thrown a bottle with a message at the beginning of the summer. I hurried to the house with my new find, and Daddy carefully removed the cork and the piece of paper within the bottle. He read the paper, then softly exclaimed:

“Will wonders never cease! I threw this into the sea with a letter, over fifteen years ago!” He gathered the family together, and read the paper to us. It contained the following poem:

I want to soar through the sky on a magic carpet
I want to run barefoot through the purple grass
I want to watch the roses dance, waltzing to the sound of
Laughter and maybe join them for a step or two.

- Gioia Breda

On a second slip of paper was the following message:

“Young Charles, wherever you may be, I hope this returns to you. I remember the days when everything was seen from the eyes of an innocent child. Thank you for reminding me to value the little things in life. Keep searching for that mermaid.

Andrew Arlington.

Portland, Oregon.”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Haircuts 2.0

You may remember a few years ago when I chopped off all of my hair and donated it? (Or several years before that when I did the same thing?) Well, I did it again. Only this time I didn't have the lovely J there to hold my hand and take me to an actual hair dresser... Nor did I have my Bronzer friends there to take me to get it cut by a barber in LA...*

I just did it myself at home... without anyone around to trim and tidy up the back, so there's no telling how uneven it is. I have a braid that's about 18 inches long waiting to be donated, and just above shoulder-length hair. I think this is actually the shortest my hair has been since I was about 4 years old! I tried the whole picture in a mirror thing, but can't get a good idea of how uneven it looks, so I suppose I'll have see if I can coerce someone into being kind enough to even it up for me sometime in the near future. 

After (I trimmed it a bit more after this and it got less straight, but more even in length front-to-back.)

I love it when my hair is really long, but I also tend to kind of hide behind it. When my hair is long, I get lots of comments about it, and subconsciously I figure that if people are looking at my abnormally long hair, and admiring it, they're not looking too closely at the rest of me (and I don't mean just physically). I also tend to literally hide behind it, pulling it around my shoulders like a cloak of invisibility or some such thing. Silly I know, but old habits die hard.

When I go for a drastic cut, it usually means I am gearing up for some change or challenge that I'm about to face. I'm taking off that cloak of invisibility and getting ready to face the world and tackle the next hurdle. I'm not entirely sure what that next hurdle is going to be this time around, but I've been thinking of cutting my hair for a few months now and the night before last I just got an overwhelming urge to do so RIGHT NOW BEFORE YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND AGAIN DAMMIT! So I did.

I keep hearing that song from West Side Story, “Something's Coming.” I don't know what that something is, but on some level, I'm gearing up for it, whether it be somethin new, good, bad, scary, challenging, or exciting... 

The haircut is just the first step... Something is coming... and I'm almost ready to face it... 


* The day I cut my hair in LA (PBP weekend) a large group of us got together in Cricket & Ivy's hotel room to watch that week's new episode of Angel.  That episode "Couplet" happened to involve one of the characters, a somewhat magical being from another dimension named Groo, getting a major haircut.  Just before Cordelia cuts his hair she asks: "Oh, wait. It's not like your strength is in your hair, or anything like that, right?"

His response: "No. I believe it is in my muscles."

While we watched this I was feeling a little under the weather, was wrapped in a blanket, and using my friend Becker as a pillow.  I believe there are pictures somewhere on the inter-webs to document this, along with before and after pics of my hair.

Once the scene ended and cut to a commercial, Becker looked at me with my newly cut hair and said something along the lines of: "So that's what's wrong with you!  Your power was in your hair!"*

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fairy Doors

This Christmas I got Mom and J & the kids Fairy Doors.  Because I had a pulled back muscle the week of Christmas I was unable to make or buy some of the presents I had planned on giving, so I had to get a little creative with what I had available.  I recycled some items that seemed to fit the fairy theme and through the complete boredom of being immobile for 3 days, I came up with some (bad) rhymes to go with the gifts.  I share with you these bits of fairy verse.

First there were little vials of Fairy Dust (glitter) to go with the doors:
                   Fairy Dust
Sprinkle a little on your hand or wrist,
Then blow it away as you make your wish.

Then there was a note to explain the Fairy Door:
              The Fairy Door
'Tis written in ancient Irish lore,
Should you hang up this fairy door,
Then sprinkle fairy dust around,
And make a wish that it be found,
As the little folk do roam,
They may decide to call it home.
The fairy folk often come out at night,
But they like to stay just out of sight.
Try to be nice in all you do and say,
'Else the little folk may be frightened away,
But if you are friendly, and you are kind,
You may see little things that they leave behind.

The Fairies left a package "For Mommy's Eyes Only" full of items that could appear at J's Fairy Door from time to time.

Sometimes the fairies need us to help them out,
To find and tidy what they've left strewn about.
In their haste to hide, it would seem to me,
That they left a few things under our tree.
I've gathered them up, as they're surely not mine,
Perhaps they'll appear for your family to find.

I gave my nephew some of my old The Littles books:
N, I must admit, 'tis true,
These tomes are not brand new.
I found them on a dusty shelf.
The Littles are kin to Fae and Elf,
So I thought these just might do,
To share their tiny world with you.

My niece got a toy hammock for her room:
J, this gift I give to you,
Is gently used and not brand new.
With it you'll find,
A brand new kind,
Of way to store your toys.
Just watch out for naughty fairy boys!
You may want to quickly learn their names,
For they play some rough and tumble games,
They have such fun as they climb up high,
They may forget that stuffies can't fly!

J & the kids got a fairy swing:
The fairies will surely love this swing,
The Little folk love to play and sing.
'Tis as natural to them, you shall find,
As the lilt of their laughter, left behind.

Last but not least, Mom got a fairy chair:
Let's hope the fairy folk come 'round,
But just in case they seem unsure,
Near their door, upon the ground,
This seat may prove the perfect lure.

Mom has a room for the kids at her place and the old ironing board cupboard seemed the perfect place for a fairy door to appear.  We set hers up before the kids got there Christmas morning, and within minutes of their arrival, N had found the door, but chose not to mention it to his sister or mom.  Typical 9-year-old boy!  Over the last couple of months the fairies have left a few items for humans to find, a Christmas tree, a thimble, and a rope ladder to climb up to the ledge.  Time will only tell what other goodies they may leave behind.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


When I was a kid, my dad was heavily involved in the local teacher's union. He was on many committees fighting for teachers rights, and even became Vice President of the Teachers Association. One of the committees he was on was called The Agreements Committee. I'm not entirely sure what they were supposed to be “agreeing” on at their many meetings, but their spouses had a different name for it: “The Arguments Committee.” My dad's good friend S was also on many of these committees and his wife and my mom decided to band together in self-preservation. They realized that there were certain times of the year when their husbands were so immersed in meetings that their families barely saw them. They began getting together for supper, sometimes to commiserate, or to just have another adult to talk to instead of toddlers, sometimes to have the men continue their work discussions in another room while us kids ran around playing games like hide-and-seek... more about that in a moment... Their family comprised of four people and became known (at least in our house) by their initials KKTS. It was common to hear the phrase “are KKTS coming over for dinner?”

I can remember several times when we'd be getting ready to make dinner when the phone would ring.

“Have you made dinner yet?”

“No, I was just getting to that...”

“Good! Put on a pot of water for some pasta, we're bringing a pot of spaghetti sauce, we'll be there in 15 minutes.”

No discussion, no argument, just “we're bringing this, put together something to go with it. See you in 15.”  Sometimes they'd even show up unannounced, arms laden with groceries or pizza for an impromptu meal. We've celebrated more holiday meals with them than with our flesh-and-blood relatives. It's rather hard to define our relationship, but basically K&S were like a second set of parents to me, pretty much the only adults other than my parents who had the authority to scold or punish me if I misbehaved. Their kids K&T and I are like a weird combination of friends, cousins and siblings. We grew up together, both in our own homes and at the STA office. When I was a teen I babysat kids during STA meetings, and when I graduated high-school T took over the job. When my dad died suddenly, KKTS were there by our sides, making sure we remembered to eat and reminding us of how to laugh. When S went through Cancer treatment and ultimately lost his battle, Mom and I did our best to return the favour.

I don't know who started it, Dad or S, but when I was very young a box of Festive Christmas Ice Cream (filled with dried fruit and other disgusting-looking items usually reserved for Fruitcake) appeared at the dinner table during one of our get-togethers. My dad was notorious for eating just about anything... as long as it wasn't “healthy.” HP sauce on ice cream? Sure, why not? But when it came to the dreaded Christmas flavour, everyone decided that this was the most disgusting ice cream in the world and refused to eat it, even my dad, so it went into the freezer. Until the next communal dinner, when it miraculously appeared at the other house as “dessert.” This back and forth continued for years. It got to the point that the ice cream couldn't have been eaten if we'd wanted to, it was so old and desiccated, but it kept being passed back and forth between our freezers, mysteriously appearing after visits. Eventually we had a horrible storm and the power was out for several days, leaving what remained of the ice cream to melt and turn the box into an unrecoverable sodden mess. Thus ended the tradition... Until a little over a year ago, when after Christmas dinner at her mom's house, T graciously gave me a ride home, and insisted on helping me bring my leftovers and loot into the house. Somehow a box of Candy-Cane Ice Cream mysteriously appeared in my freezer. At Easter it made it's way to K's house, and since then has found a home in the younger K's freezer, where it may or may not have been consumed... his wife is expecting baby # 2 and T says there is a definite possibility that the ice cream succumbed to someone's midnight cravings. K has been known to eat a lot of things that the rest of us turned our noses up at, and no one can predict the cravings of a pregnant woman.

Now that we're adults, nearly every time T and I get together and one of us introduces the other to her friends, T will inevitably bring up one particular fact. When we were kids, we'd play all sorts of games at our house, hiding in the closet and pretending it was a cave we were hiding in to escape pirates, tag, board games, and of course... hide-and-seek. 

The picture of innocence.
I had a trundle bed. There was a normal mattress on top, and a big drawer below with a foam mattress for sleepovers. At least, that was the intended use. I can remember using that mattress to sled down the stairs with my best friend and her big sister. (That cracked stain glass window had NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS MOM! Really! It must have been the dog, and her hard rubber ball... yeah... that's it!) But ultimately, as T tells it, the main purpose of this bed drawer was to play hide-and-seek, shove T (the youngest of the three of us) into it, close it and wait for the seeker to find her. And wait. And wait. And wait. And occasionally to forget that she was there, only to find her some time later, either fast asleep, or screaming because she couldn't get out. I can only remember doing this a couple of times. My biggest hide-and-seek memories are of hiding behind the dresser in my parents room because it was in the corner on an angle and you could climb over the nightstand to squeeze into the space behind, crouch down and escape detection for what felt like hours. T's biggest hide-and-seek memories are of being trapped on a cheap foam mattress in a drawer under my bed, too little to figure out how to slide herself out without the help of her neglectful brother and I. My apologies to the 3-6 year-old T for all the times we allegedly left her under there. In hindsight it must have been rather scary. I hid under there a few times, but by then I had the upper body strength to grab the slats above me and slide the drawer out. She didn't. And 25+ years later, it seems she'll never let me forget it. I am sincerely sorry T! (But hey, at least you have an interesting story to tell every time my name comes up, right?)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Janine Soup

When I was little one of my favorite foods was Janine Soup.  It was green and mushy and yummy and had pieces of ham or bacon in it and it was glorious.  It wasn't until I was eleven or so, that I learned that "Janine Soup" was really "Split Pea Soup."  My mom would make it from scratch after we had ham for special occasions.

My dad and I would drive across the border to Bellingham to buy milk, gas, ham (or turkey) and pop.  Dad really liked Cherry Coke which you couldn't buy North of the border, so he would stock up on our little trips, while I would get Original Trident Gum which you couldn't get in Canada.  It tasted like their bubblegum (pink) and mint (blue) flavours had been smushed together into one gum, and for some reason I really liked it.

It's funny how memory can play tricks with you... I'm not sure how often we made these trips, but it seemed like we went at least once a month if not every couple of weeks.  We'd often stop at Denny's for lunch (The day my dad finally let me order my own meal instead of ordering me a corn dog which I HATED will always stand out in my memory.) We'd get ham for Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas, and a number of other special occasions, and there was always a batch of Janine Soup to look forward to the following week.  Our trips across the border became less frequent after mom found out that she had high cholesterol and had to stop eating red meat.  Sadly, the occurrences of Janine Soup became fewer and farther between as well.

This Easter we went to K's for dinner and had a delightful time watching little D completely ignore her Easter egg hunt in favor of an old ball in the backyard.  After our delicious dinner, K was wrapping up the ham bone to freeze until she returned from her vacation in sunny Hawaii, while we all started commenting on how we were each eager to stop by "to water the plants" while she was away, and should the ham bone mysteriously go missing from her freezer and one of us happened to make split pea soup, these things should be considered merely coincidental and IN NO WAY RELATED!

Apparently K decided that if the ham bone was still there when she returned from her vacation, she would get each of us a ham bone of our own.  It would seem that none of us carried through on our thinly veiled threats, so she bought ham hocks for each of us.  I picked up mine from its temporary home in my mom's freezer the other day and today I made my first ever pot of Janine Soup... erm... I mean, Split Pea Soup.  The whole place smelled yummy all afternoon and the kids upstairs and their Grandma Sim commented on the scents wafting upstairs.  Sim was awesome in giving me pointers about how low to set the temp as it simmered, and approved of the ingredients and method I used.  I haven't tried the soup yet, as it wasn't ready in time for supper, but it looks and smells just right!  While I know it's technically Split Pea Soup with Ham, it will always be Janine Soup to me.