Canada


Has it really been a year and a half?

 Ottawa earlier this year

Ottawa earlier this year

Good Lord.

Though I am certain no one will notice, and might care less if they do, I am going to blog again. However, I am done with the subject matter of yore. I have no more to say about any of it.

I am going to write about now.

Now in Canada, Alberta, the world at large  – should I fancy to – and any other delightfully off-beat thing that catches my attention.

So, to catch up those dear readers, who might have graciously allowed me to gather dust on their feeds, I am a Canadian.  All of 13 days.

Unsurprisingly, I feel exactly the same, which confirms my suspicion that I was clearly born the wrong nationality.

I am a Liberal.

Okay, that’s not a surprise, but what is new is that I joined the Liberal Party of Canada.

They give you cards. To carry. Red ones. Numbered. Seriously.

And I here I thought the phrase “card carrying liberal” was just some random saying.

I joined the party not quite a year ago after spending several months following its new leader, Justin Trudeau.

It hasn’t been easy.

The last time I belonged to a political party officially was in the very early 90’s though it could easily have been the late 80’s. I am not certain when the state of Iowa began allowing people to register as Independents. I dumped the Democrats as soon as that option became available and have militantly shunned allegiance since.

Belonging is a trap not a privilege, and it strips you of your right to think for yourself. Slowly and those who belong would argue that this isn’t the case, but it does.

However, Trudeau … didn’t make me roll my eyes … or question his sincerity, but I will say that I have little doubt that he is being slowly assimilated and one day, he will be a full on politician, indistinguishable from the rest. On that day, my little red card will join other memorabilia in the scrapbook labeled “things I did once but am over now – no judging”.

How do I know Trudeau is doomed? Because he isn’t Superman. In fact, he is a little bit on the scrawny side, and despite his ability to take an actual punch, everyone has their kryptonite. There are no messiahs out there just waiting for a chance to save the world. If six years with Barack Obama for a president taught me anything, it taught me that. But, Parliament Hill (the seat of the Canadian government in Ottawa, Ontario) is like the Overlook Hotel. In the battle for your soul, it will win if you overstay within its walls.

I think most overstay.

Although it has not been steadily downhill with Trudeau since he allowed himself to be shorn like Samson, I have come close to cutting up my pretty red card on several occasions.

Most recently the party’s gleefully opportunistic suddenly flip on the Israel and Gaza issue sent me into a “seriously!!” rant that only my husband got to enjoy, which set me to pondering a return to blogging that lasted the summer and here I am.

Meanwhile …

Life is life. I draw and paint now. I re-learned to crochet. I teach yoga with an ease that astounds me though I don’t know why. Teaching is like breathing. Try as I might, I cannot quit it.

Rob is Rob. Wise and wonderful.

The children continue to be themselves in ways that delight, exasperate and make me proud.

I nearly have a novel finished.

No, for reals.

A political thriller.  A kind of Jack Reacher meets the West Wing. With some romance. A bromance. And, of course, terrorists. How could there not be? Only in Canada. Alberta, mostly.

When I am ready for a few beta readers, I will let you know. January-ish, I am thinking.

Oh, and I re-started my Twitter account.

Yeah, I know. Twitter is ruled by the vapid and intelligent interaction is often meme’d an ugly death, but I have found the Alberta politically minded to be more discussion leaning and tolerant of diversity than those I ran with in the States. There are a few mean girls (aren’t there always?)and a whole lot of bleating sheep, but that’s to be expected in a public space. And while the Canadian pundits are a bit full of themselves, they occasionally crawl down from their towers to engage with the serfs, which is something that doesn’t happen in the southland at all.

And that’s it.


I went to the Occupy Edmonton event today with Mick, and if you haven’t gotten out there and participated in this movement yet – it would be worth your time to do so. And no, it didn’t “unjade” me. I still believe that even a large and growing group of concerned, thoughtful people are not a match for the corporate/political machine that currently runs the world, and therefore, controls our existences.

But it warms the soul a bit to see that the kind of innocence and enthusiasm that sparked great social upheaval and change in days gone by can still manifest in young people. Not enough to save us … not yet … but maybe a start.


Terry Fox statue in Ottawa

Image via Wikipedia

Terry Fox Day, week, month, millennium – take your pick – is upon us again. Being a Canadian hero/icon, it’s hard to get away from the fundraising done in his honor/memory during the month of September, but Dee continues to be unsettled by the nation’s adoration and determination to carry on the fight against cancer – via money – in his name.

As I do every fall, I sent numerous email reminders to the school asking that Dee be allowed to opt out of all the assemblies and/or information sessions about Terry. They nearly all include some sort of visual representation of Terry, and she simply can’t see the guy without it conjuring up negative emotions. I have told her that someday it won’t bother her as much to which she replied,

“It will always bother me.”

Perhaps this is due to the fact that her first encounter with him occurred shortly after our moving up to Canada from the U.S. when she was dealing with all sorts of adjustments and readjustments, and poor Terry was swept up into the emotional stew never to be released. Whatever the reason, neither Rob nor I feel that Dee’s participation in Terry Fox Day is important enough to force it on her. It’s just another made up holy day. She is happy to take her toonie and walk with the other kids during the walk/run in his name and that’s fine with us.

Inadvertently, however, one of the staff showed her class a video about Terry last Friday. When she informed me, all I could do was sigh. I can’t run interference 24/7 and I told her that. Sometimes these things will happen and she is going to have to open her mouth to object herself or suck it up and deal.

“It couldn’t have been that upsetting,” I told her.

“It was,” she insisted. “It makes my tummy feel uncomfortable.”

“Not that much,” I countered, “or you would have spoken up, and you would have said something as soon as you got home from school.”

She couldn’t refute that because she didn’t mention it until later that evening as we were on our way to shop for birthday presents for upcoming parties to which she has been invited.

“I still didn’t like it,” she replied.

And I don’t imagine she did. I can’t stand watching movies or television shows that depict death or grieving. It’s just not entertaining.When you haven’t experienced something, seeing it is enlightening and gives you a chance to mentally try it on and live it, but once you can call an event your own through first hand experience, the vicarious thrill isn’t so thrilling anymore.

Terry Fox reminded me though that although Dee is a bit over experienced in the dealing with death department for someone her age. She still needs to be prepped in advance of  incoming where death is concerned.

Rob and the older girls have another funeral up north to attend, and as I was explaining to Dee why were weren’t going (Rob and I are agreed on no more funerals for Dee unless she had a relationship with the deceased), she inquired as to whether or not she and I would be taking care of Edie’s dog, Loki.

The dog is getting on in years and has been suffering with diminished mobility that’s gotten worse over the past year. He can’t be left home alone even if it’s just overnight, and he is getting to be too much work to ask someone to take him in for a couple of days here or there. Still, we’ve taken Loki before, soDee’s question was a logical one.

“No, honey, ” I said, “Loki is a lot of work now, and he is more comfortable being with Edie anyway.”

“Because of his legs?” Dee said.

“Yes, his legs aren’t getting better, and Edie knows best what to do for him.”

“They aren’t getting better?” the tone and not the words contained the actual question.

“No,” I said, choosing my words very carefully. “Sometimes, doctors can’t do anything, and they can’t do anything for Loki. His legs will get worse, and then he will not be able to use them.”

She nodded thoughtfully and said, “That’s why Edie is getting the wheelchair thing.”

I nodded, “But that’s just to make things a bit easier. Loki isn’t going to get well.”

“Animals don’t live forever,” she agreed, “and neither do humans.”

And that’s where the conversation was left. Later on, as I retold it to Rob, I pointed out that it was only in the moment I realized that Dee needed advance preparation for the inevitable where her sister’s dog is concerned.

The dog, in a twist of ironic fate that makes me dislike the universe’s odd sense of interconnectedness, is suffering from a demyelinating illness that is slowly paralyzing him. Once it’s done its dirty work on his lower half, it will travel up the spine and leave him essentially trapped in a useless body. It’s very similar in effect to the disease that killed my late husband, Will. It’s not consciously painful, but the collateral issues can cause discomfort and anxiety. There isn’t much that can be done because science just hasn’t found a way to replace the damaged myelin sheath that covers nerves in people or animals. Once the protective covering is gone that’s it. What’s left is no more or less than a prison made of flesh. To say that I am not eager to bear witness to that, or to the pain it will cause Edie, is understating and understatement.

Though Loki’s issues are not new, the diagnosis is and the game plan is in early days. Progressive degenerative illnesses vary from according to the individual, and so everyone waits, watches and hopes – but it’s never to early to begin to prepare. I am a Boy Scout in this matters, and so I laid a bit of the groundwork for Dee.

Tomorrow, she will hang out in the library while her classmates watch yet another inspirational video about Terry Fox, and then she will join them as they run or walk to raise money to beat a disease that will never be beaten. Death comes to all things and cancer or degenerative illness are but two of its avenues.

I wonder if the organizers picked the last month of summer on purpose? With its fading, falling retreat to pre-winter here, it’s a fitting season for such an event.

 


Some Inuit believed that the spirits of their ...

Image via Wikipedia

I hadn’t seen the Northern Lights once since moving to Canada four years ago. Scientific explanation for their absence from the night sky centered around the lack of activity on the surface of the sun. Despite looking quite active, the sun’s surface has been cooler in the past few years, fewer flares and no sun spots. This has some sort of dampening effect on the phenomena known as the aurora borealis.

But last night as I was finishing up in the downstairs bathroom, Rob called for me to come upstairs quick.

Northern Lights!

According to him, they were not very impressive last night. He’s seen better and much like my take on the bison in Yellowstone this summer, he’s not that awed because they are a fixture in his life. They have always been.

I was pretty impressed though with my “northern exposure” moment.

The sky here fascinates me generally. The way the clouds stack up so close to the horizon they seem within grasp and the way the sky curves to meet the distant edge of the earth. Sometimes, it’s almost claustrophobic, the sky seems to loom so close.

Northern Lights are mainly a winter phenomena. Their sudden appearance this last week does not bode well for a lengthy fall season, which is a bit depressing given the fact that the last of Edmonton’s snow from this last winter has only just melted away.

But it was awesome to see the lights snake across the dark expanse last night.


Minneapolis

Image via Wikipedia

At some point, coming or going, where a trip to Iowa is concerned, Minneapolis looms large and essentially unavoidable. A metropolitan area that all but defines the term “urban sprawl”, we found ourselves once again attempting to circumnavigate it with as much expediency as possible on our return trip to Canada last week.

Coming up I-35 and entering the interstate labyrinth from the southern edge, it can easily take well over an hour to break free. Compounding this was Rob’s quest for another two bar stools for our new kitchen breakfast nook. The pricing on everything under the sun hovering just below insanely cheap in the States, we’d found two chairs at the Pier 1 in Dubuque and determined that another two could be secured in another store in Michelle Bachmann territory.

Dee is an extraordinarily intrepid traveler for her age. Broken to the backseat during her 5th year and first in Canada by the vast expanse that is Alberta specifically but Canada generally, she can ride six to seven hours with nary an “are we there yet?” But a week of intense spoiling by her grandmother softened her a bit and the endless city of Minneapolis quickly mushroomed into a Groundhog’s Day experience.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“Minneapolis,” Rob said.

30 minutes later her attention wandered back to the seemingly unchanged landscape.

“Where are we now?”

“Minneapolis,” I told her.

And 30 minutes after that?

“Are we still in Minneapolis?”

“Yes, we are,” Rob said.

“Well, I don’t know why they call it Minneapolis,” she announced a little while later. “There is nothing ‘mini’ about it.”

“Minne is a native word,” Rob said.

“It probably doesn’t mean small,” I added.

“Probably not,” Dee agreed.


Garage sale

Image via Wikipedia

Spent some time purging drawers and closets in anticipation of the hamlet-wide garage sale later this summer.

Dee has outgrown nearly everything, which caught me off guard because normally I shop for her every other year. She’s put on exactly zero pounds but shot up an inch-ish or better. It’s all legs. Devilish hard to fit the child’s waist. Girls’ clothing these days are vanity sized and reflect the chunkier body types that have resulted from our processed food/low-level of energy lifestyles. Dee is not the shortest kid in her class anymore, but she’s got a Scarlett O’Hara waist compared to nearly all of her peers. Tiny waist and coltish legs spells difficulty in sizing her, so just about every pair of pants I got her back in late February are now floodies and still a tad too big around her waist. Hobbit-legged and thick-middled, the girl ain’t.

I rummaged and purged my own rather meager collection of apparel myself, sticking slavishly to the rule that “if it hasn’t been worn in a year, its history”. I continue to pride myself on the fact that every article of clothing I own could be neatly packed into a large Rubbermaid tote should the need arise.

All this pro-activeness called to mind the agony of purging and packing for the move to Canada before Rob and I married back in June of 2007. In fact four years ago yesterday, we left Des Moines behind.

I sometimes miss the idea of that house.  The openness and space. Some of what we’ve done in our recent renovations replicates it in a way, but we are far from done and even farther from achieving liberation from boxes of packed away stuff that is never thought of much less in danger of every being used again.

Over lunch today, Rob ruefully expressed what he called his “buyer’s remorse” about the renovation project that never ends. Selling and buying new, however, was never an option. Real estate around here is overpriced and much of the newer stuff is poorly constructed. For a little bit of debt, we can create spaces in our existing home that will more than suit as opposed to taking on the monumental debt of a brand new mortgage for what amounts to overvalued real estate on a prairie that is downwind of various petrochemical plants. It’s somewhat of a no brainer.

It’s doesn’t make the process less cumbersome or tiring.

The last time I purged a house, it was slash and burn. Goodwill, friends and friends/relatives of friends benefited tremendously from my zeal to simply lighten my load. I gave away more than I sold and simply threw away everything else. And with only the occasional exception (it would have been nice to have kept that Pampered Chef pizza cutter because the one I have now bites in comparison), I haven’t missed anything.

That’s the thing about stuff that most people can’t wrap their minds around – it honestly won’t be missed once you are able to pry your fingers loose of it. In all likelihood, you will never waste another thought on it again.

I toy with the idea of just getting a waste-bin  delivered and just have a chuckfest. But, of course, I won’t. A lot of what constitutes clutter isn’t mine, and though I am convinced that it would be years – if ever – that anyone would ask after the departed items, I respect the fact that what I deem useless and spent embodies something important for others.

Accumulation of stuff seems to be a condition of life – unless one is a monk of some kind. Renunciates are what they are called in yoga. Renunciates eschew things in an effort to seek the balance between living in a physical world without placing too much attachment on it while Householders do the opposite while still being expected to rise above it all. I think the latter is the more difficult. Having fewer things, as I have learned, spoils a person. The more room I acquire the less I want to fill it up. The more stuff one has, the harder it is to decide what’s necessary and the greater the likelihood that one won’t recognize the tribble like nature of stuff. Stuff breeds because it feeds want.

Too much stuff blinds us as well because it fairly demands that we attach value – monetary and emotional – to it, making it harder to get rid of and easier to let pile up in one way or another.

I suspect I will spend the better part of the rest of my life waging a quiet war of attrition with clutter and accumulation. Most days I am zen about that but today it’s raining and cold and my hair is frizzy. Not that this has any bearing, mind you, and I have just been thinking  – again – about how to lighten Rob’s load without any success. Maybe banana bread and cookies? At least that’s not permanent clutter.


Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? 

Lose Yourself by Eminem

Not quite the scenario I’ve been presented with but an apt lyrical representation in some ways.

The studio where I study and teach shuts its door at the end of the month. My friend and teacher, Jade, has chosen to step away and spend more time with her children and seek saner employment opportunities. She offered those of us who teach there the opportunity to take the studio over, and regretfully, I passed.

Timing is one of those serendipitous things. It introduced Rob and I to each other and brought Dee and I to Canada. It has afforded me with writing opportunities and yoga study and teaching opportunities that someone with my background shouldn’t likely have had. But it didn’t show up for this one.

I love the studio. It’s compact, elegant and well-situated. Sitting above a used bookstore (yes, the one I toyed briefly with buying) and sandwiched between a seedy pub and a liquor store, it fits the stereotypical ideal of city yoga studios everywhere. How often have you run across yoga springing forth from the seedy remains of crumbling downtowns like saplings stubbornly taking root in the cracks of sidewalks.

Even as strip malls and newer shopping plazas spring up on the other side of the highway, the town is determined to lure folks back to the former city center with a massive overhaul, repaving the streets, putting in wider sidewalks and creating a pedestrian plaza just a block away. The area improves with each year and there are signs that small businesses, at any rate, have taken notice and are moving into the empty retail slots at a heartening pace though not all have succeeded.

So location? The studio has that covered.

The rent, though I didn’t ask, is probably reasonable based in the information I acquired when I was checking out the bookstore.

And there is a need and a student base, but I am not naive about either. The former fluctuates with the weather, and the latter is a personality thing. Jade has a loyal following but it wouldn’t necessarily switch allegiance. When you are the product in a sense, you can’t “sell” that along with the physical aspects of your business.

Why not then?

Because any type of “fitness” oriented business is subject to the time constraints of those who use it. Shift work rules around here, so early mornings and evenings are prime time. I have a husband and child who expect me about in the early morning and evenings to accommodate them. As it is, teaching just three nights a week this past nine months has been strain enough. If I were to add more?

Rob’s enthusiasm factors as well and he couldn’t offer much when I told him about the studio.

“You’re not thinking about doing it, are you?”

He is my most ardent supporter, but he can be forgiven his self-interest. My working hinders more than it helps our bottom-line and that was never more evident than when we filed our Canadian taxes this year. And my not being around in the evenings shifts the burden of Dee’s activities to him alone in terms of carting her about and cheerleader duty.

One of the reasons behind Jade’s decision was the fact that she was missing hockey games and that precious four hours from the time kids get home from school until they are tucked in for the night. I know that many two income families live quite happily in the nano-bits snatched in the before and after school allotments. They pack everything that doesn’t conveniently fit into the week into a 48 hour weekend, but as I remember that life – it takes a toll.

And then there are the crucial factors. I don’t know anything about running a business, and freelancing more seriously this last year has taught me that the rules, which govern me from afar, are more complex and onerous than I knew.

Finally, I don’t know that I am ready to “be the teacher”. Sure, I teach yoga, but under the umbrella of the studio, which affords me credibility. I am unsure that I possess the experience and knowledge – or radiate the gravitas –  that one needs to in order to “be the studio owner” – to be THE teacher.

Regardless, it’s hard to let this one slip even though I know that there are good reasons for doing so.