Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Isn’t everybody’s life like this?

I am having one of those days. We all have them.

I woke up when the phone rang. My children’s nanny calling to say she’s got a migraine. Can’t come in to work. Bummer. I hate having a migraine so I can really commiserate.

No problem, got a backup plan and a back up babysitter. Lay in bed a few more minutes and then get up to wait for the girls to come home from their over-night with their dad. Greet J, as the children are late in arriving and head up to the shower. When I get out, discover that I’m not going to see them this morning because their dad has over-slept. (Glad I used the time wisely and had already made my lunch.)

No problem, will see them when I get home tonight. Too bad though, I miss not seeing them in the morning. Might just get to work on time today though. The irony of this statement smacks me in the head as I put the parking brake on and wait for a long train to pass by. And then get stopped by construction work, and this all before I can get outta Dodge.

Still, I had my coffee: all was not lost.

You know, I used to write stories about “The Worst Day Ever”. The kind of story that started off getting up late and being late for all the disasters of the day. Well, sometimes life is like that and, as always, stranger than fiction. (And, thank goodness, so far my imagination is still worse than my reality…most days anyway…with a few lapses into the Land of Exception.)

So, I was chatting with J this morning while I was waiting for Calla and Fiona’s arrival. You know, just catching up after the weekend. And she said to me, “Man, your life is just too much!” And I asked her, “What, you mean other people don’t live this way?”

So, this prompted me to think. (I know we all understand this is never a good thing, but it can be entertaining.) Is my life really all that different from yours? (You, the Collective You of all the people I know…well those of you who know about this blog.)

1. Doesn’t everyone have hobbies that they obsess over? Ok, so I have multiple hobbies that I obsess over, but that’s the whole premise behind the blog, now isn’t it.

2. Doesn’t everyone have issues with their family? C’mon, you don’t have to admit it to me, but you know you do.

3. Doesn’t everyone fly by the seat of their pants from home to work to home, just praying that they remembered to pick up milk and their fly is up? (OK, tonight I need to remember that I am almost out of TP.)

4. Doesn’t everyone juggle work life and private life and family life? And music life, and knitting life and friends and loved ones and cleaning and laundry. Ever seen one of those guys spin plates? How many could I possibly keep spinning without getting spun myself. Hmmm, spinning. That’s something I’d really like to learn someday….shit, that’s exactly the kind of thinking that’s gotten me where I am so far.

5. Doesn’t everyone have plans that stretch into the unforeseeable future, with every weekend booked with something. I’m so freaking busy. I do have some time open…I’m looking at November right now. Is that a good time for you?

6. Doesn’t everyone go away from time to time and find that they’ve been ripped off while on vacation?

7. Doesn’t everyone have to deal with the Police from time to time? You don’t? What are your tax dollars going to then, if they are not working for you?!

8. Doesn’t everyone have pets with issues and big decisions to make regarding them?

9. Doesn’t everyone have dust bunnies lurking under some furniture? OK, a little more honesty is needed here: mine are buffalos…and they roam.

10. Doesn’t everybody go a bit nuts every once in a while? Alright, you in the back, yes, I am a bit more prone to the craziness than you are, but really, is my life really all that more exciting than yours?

So, yes, perhaps I’m living a little closer to the edge than a lot of you. But I remember, in my teens, trying to fill my days with lots to do so that I could fall asleep better at night.

Well, it worked. I’ve left insomnia behind for that sleep deprivation-induced haze called full-time-working-mother-of-twins-happily-dating-and-having-a-life-rich-in-friends-and-full-of-music-and-other-cherished-activities. No drugs needed to sleep here at my house.

So, to fill you in, since of course beyond the laughs, you are here to hear what I’m up to (otherwise known as how my life is holding me ransom this week…film at 11…if I can ever figure out how to upload video, that is), I had a lovely weekend in Midland visiting Bruce’s family and to celebrate his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. And came home to discover that shenanigans had taken place at my humble abode whilst I was abroad gallivanting. Someone who should never have been in my house, was allowed in to use the washroom to change her clothes and walked out with my UWO University ring, a ring I was given by my parents as a child, and some costume jewellery necklaces. Oh, yes, and my entire collection of 1973 Mountie quarters. I’ve been collecting them since I was 10. And the ten year old in me is pissed. I’m not going to say what the 35 year old in me is thinking about that. And that’s what I’ve noticed so far.

So, the girl, T, who was responsible for looking after my place and feeding and taking care of Shiela, my dog, was on the phone on Monday calling all the persons of interest (of whom there was to be but 1 person allowed over to my house and it turns out there were more than 12 on my front porch) to find out what everyone knew and to speak to their parents. Then we had a nice chat with the Constabulary at the OPP station in town to give details, etc.

In my estimation, $500+ has been lifted from my house because of this incident and most of it is stuff that is difficult to replace. Now, beyond getting angry and considering violence…which is not the answer as I am seeking to make as big an impact as possible for someone who looks up to me and is extremely upset that her lack of judgement has landed her in such deep shit…I have been considering how best she can make amends for the loss of my property. We shall not go into how she will be able to mend this breech in trust. Those of you who know me well, will immediately shake your heads on her behalf and mutter things like “Oh, dear.” and “Tsk, tsk, tks.” and “I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes….” and “I’m so very glad I’ve never crossed Jen” as they are all well aware that I may be the forgiving sort, but I do not forget.

I have been very clear that she is not the one who ripped me off. That is why I have not charged her with theft. However, she has blatantly gone against my wishes and allowed a breech in the defences of my fortress…my home. As a woman who lives most of the time alone with her two small children, I’m sure you can appreciate what the security of my inner sanctum means.

So, what would you have her do to make amends? How would you have her repay her debt?

And with that, it is lunchtime and I would like to fit a bit of knitting in before work starts up again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cape Breton Part II

Let's see now, I think I left off with me whining and moaning about what Step Class had done to me. Really, folks, I gotta tell you, it wasn't all pain. And actually, I found that going to the dance classes made the pain go away...for a while.
At the College
Apart from all the frenetic networking and getting to know everyone and the classes (I took Piano Accompaniment, Advanced Bodhran (that's drum) and Beginner Step), there was excellent food served up by the cafeteria staff. This was like no cafeteria food I'd ever had. Three solid squares a day that made us all gain weight and a schedule so full of exciting stuff to do and people to talk to, we were starved by the time the next meal rolled around. Luckily, the balance to all this eating was, yes, you guessed it, more dancing.
Don't it Make You Feel Like Dancing
Just about any night of the week (except gotta rest some time, I guess) there is a dance to go to. This strikes me as a fabulous way to get your exercise. Monday night is Brook Village, Tuesday night is Scotsdale, Wednesday night is Normaway Inn, Thursday night is Glencoe, Friday night South West Margaree, and Saturday is West Mabou. We went out to the Monday night, Thursday night and Saturday night dances and would have gone on Friday night too had we not had ourselves a little rest that turned into a 12-hour sleep. Seriously, we were so burned out, when the alarm went off for us to get up and go to the dance, I wanted to cry. Luckily, we were both that toasted and felt very refreshed the day after.

Unlike going to a dance here in Ontario, be it a wedding or a club, or other social event, most people mill about and drink for a while and talk/shout over the music. Not so in Cape Breton. As soon as the fiddler is done tuning up his strings and puts his bow against them, this is what the dance floor looks like. I know, it's dark, but who has a dance with the lights on full?
(OK, so the video won't upload...picture a packed community hall, darkish for dancing with a dance floor so full, you can't get from the door to the bar! Seriously, it was something else.)

And it was like this at every dance. In fact, we hovered at the West Mabou dance to see how close to the front we could get. This is where the floor boards are most worn and the real experts are. This is a bonus as Cape Breton dances are not your average fare. No, its square sets all night. This is not to be mistaken for some form of Country Music, heaven forfend! This is Cape Breton Celtic music at its best and the dances that have gone along with it since the Scots got off the boats. And don't be fooled: it is a real work out. The men who come to these dances (and who actually dance) bring at least 3 spare shirts for a very good reason. It gets damn hot in the community hall (it being Summer and all) and you just smoke through the dance steps. And the dancing starts at 10pm and doesn't stop until 1am! The best dances are the ones that don't serve alcohol because frankly you never want to quoif a cold refreshing beer and then do 2 jig sets and a reel set. Beer well-shaken is a one-way ticket to heartburn. Or worse. Don't worry though, I held it together and switched to water.

I was really swept up in the great feeling of community participation at these dances. There were people of all ages (some of the dances invite families, ergo the dry dances). There were couples from their teens to their 80's cycling through chains and promenades. By the end of the week, there were people I'd seen every dance we'd gone to. And the sets allowed for meeting new people as partners spun off in different directions (somewhat unexpectedly sometimes as we new recruits caught on). And although there was a fair bit of concentrated looks as we figured out what we were doing, overall, there was a general sense of joy in the music and it was impossible to sit still, even when you'd just finished up a set and could barely stand.

And every night we went out, we were came home to shooting stars from the Perseids meteor shower. Can this week get any better.

All good things must end and what a way to go!
On Thursday night, there was a Student Ceilidh where we showcased what we'd learned.

This is me with Myron, my drumming teacher, and our new friend Cindy Butineau-Thompson. She step dances just to take the edge off and OMG are her feet fast. Myron and I moved as far out of the way as possible!!! Oh yeah, she's also a professional fiddler. I saw smoke come off her strings!

To show everyone that I really did touch a piano (the dust on the one at home will attest that this does not happen often), I accompanied Bruce and InBobNeato to Coilsfield House after being given about an hour or so to practice the piece. It was a pretty intense couple of minutes in front of about a hundred people, but we did really well. Singing and drumming are no problem for me, but I think I'm still having Kiwanis flashbacks from when I was seven and performing piano in front of groups still makes me sweat.
After the ceilidh ended, we headed back up to our dorm room to shoot the breeze, have a celebretory drink and convince Cindy that she had to come out to the Glencoe Dance with us.

Now the Glencoe dance is located in what could be called God's Country. You have to take a road that is easily missed, is unlit, unpaved and after the rain their had been a few days before, as easy to drive as one covered in deep slushy snow. We left behind powerlines and crawled along with the anticipation building to silly extremes as Bruce (our intrepid dance guide) told us tales of the ladies from college who took a turn too hard last year and ended up in the ditch at 2 in the monring. We swore that when we got back to paved road, we'd stop the car and get out to kiss it. I would almost say that the ride to the dance was more fun than the dance. However, this is just a plain lie because we had 3 hours of solid foot-stomping fun along with a bunch of others from the college who had come out for a good time too.

More on the after college part of the trip to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

East of Ordinary

Well folks, now that I'm back, let me start by telling you I had a fantastic vacation. Had there been more wireless internet available, there might have been more posts, but our days were pretty full of living life it should be on holiday. So that said, we left Gagetown, the quaint little village down the winding road and headed for the hills. (I'm sensing that there will be more than a few clichés here tonight, so be prepared.) And the hills were enchanting. I recall thinking to myself, but aloud, as most of you know I am prone to doing, that if there is a heaven, it is in Cape Breton.

As we crossed the Canso Causeway, the body of water that makes Cape Breton an island (and its not all that big a body of water either), I was captured by the rugged topography: the hills, the trees and the lakes. I've never been to Scotland, but I know I've read that the land was torn from there as the continents drifted apart, and I can really believe it. It's no wonder the Scots emigrated there and stayed.

Here's a picture of the Causeway.

It's a wonder no one drives right into the strait with that monster of a hill staring at them. That is a train, running alongside the road, which effectively made it impossible to get a good picture of the water beyond it.

As we crossed the water, the excitement became almost unbearable because we were off to St. Ann's and the Gaelic College. Now, I don't know if any of you had the chance to go away to camp when you were kids, but I did not. Well, not until Air Cadets when I went to Trenton Base for 2 weeks of Basic Training and let me be totally honest with you...this was loads more fun.
The greatest part about going to this place, so far from home, was that I was going with a great guy, and we were meeting up with a bunch of people I'd already met. Plus, we made tons of new friends along the way, one of whom was married to a guy Bruce went to school with! Nothing like travelling to the ends of the earth to meet up with people who you have connections with.

So, here's the guy...Bruce. (Click on the pictures for a larger view. In theory this will work, I've never tried it before. Only time will tell.)

Here are some of the people we knew:

and Maureen and Joan and Kay (I had the distinct pleasure of meeting these ladies at Kay's in Toronto last November and look forward to the reunion there again!)

And the Amazing InBobNeato who refused to have his real name used to avoid infamy!

InBobNeato was an excellent participant in everything. We both took step dancing classes for the very first time in our lives. Now, Bob is a Pys.Ed teacher, so this form of physical torture did not do to him what it did to me. And I was not aware of what it was doing to me until I made the mistake of joining the fellas for a couple of cold ones at the Lobster Galley restaurant. This is situated 2 minutes by car (and 15 minutes walking there...downhill...with a cold beer on your mind). The view on the patio is breath- taking. It is situated at the base of a fjiord. There were jellyfish in the bay (this was fine with me as we were not in the bay with them). There was a bald eagle surfing the air currents. And far out, there was a kayaker enjoying the sun and the breeze. Idyllic. Perfect. Look.

I mentioned it was a 15-minute walk downhill. Yeah, not so going back up. Actually, if you could have harnessed the energy I wasted bitching, whining and moaning the whole way up the steep incline all the way back to the college, the school could have saved a day's electricity. My legs were BURNING AGONY. And why is InBobNeato amazing? Because not only did he put up with the noise (as did Bruce...although there was some making fun going on), but he promised to fix the problem when we got back. For a bit, I thought this might involve violence or weaponry or, God forbid, more step dancing, but in truth, he worked some physiotherapy that made all the pain in my legs go away. For teaching me this little trick (and for showing Bruce how to do it) I owe a huge debt of gratitude. (I know you all want to know for the next time you break yourselves having fun. So, I'll share. If you've overdone it and your leg muscles are getting really tight, you can trick your body into releasing those muscles. Lie on the ground and raise up one leg and get someone to support it. Then, as they apply counter trying to hold your leg up, push your leg down toward the floor. Do it 3 times. Each time, you'll be able to raise your leg a bit higher. Repeat for other leg.) Seriously folks, it worked so well, I jumped up and down afterward.

All Hail Bob!

And with that first installment of Gaelic College and Cape Breton, I HAVE to get some sleep. Good night!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Just Show People One Hobbie...

Now, I'm going to go back a bit. Back to Gagetown where we stayed at Doc's Hill B&B with Don and Donna Teakles. Now as many of you already know, I have a wee bit of a knitting habit. Ok, it's not little at all. Well, I was knitting on my seasilk print o' the waves shawl, by Euny Jang, and it was kicking my arse in the car. Go look at the pattern, you'll understand why. It's one of those patterns where you knit a row and count and then go back and figure out where you forgot a yarn over or something of the like and knit it again (if you're lucky and you don't have to go back another row or two to fix the mistake, by I'm digressing). So by the time we reached the B&B I had moved on to more pedestrian sock knitting and decided that after 10 hours of driving I wouldn't bother brining too much in with me. But I did bring in the sock. Well it wasn't out of its travelling case two minutes and Donna was over to inspect the yarn and the pattern and went to go and show off what she had on the needles. I love this about knitters. They want to feel the yarn, know the stitches and it's a great way to break the ice. Non-knitters think you are a freak.

So, we settled in the livingroom after lugging a modest amount out of the car (no need to lug it all in right) and we get to talking (and knitting). Bruce had been here before (and a good thing as it was a long and winding road we went down to get to Gagetown) and they knew he was on his way to the college. But, they said they couldn't really tell for sure if he was telling the truth on account he'd never palyed them any music in the years he stayed with them. So, back out the car to get instruments and music (for me) and I set down the sock and picked up my drum for a bit of a mini-session. Where there are musicians, there will be music.

What we hadn't anticipated was that there were others of us in the room. Another family was staying the night and their daughters Neeva and Jessica (both also from Ottawa) played piano. So, we played and listened and had a grand old time. Not fir the first time had I entered a room full of strangers to discover I was amongst kindred sprits and all because I showed who I really was and what I liked to do.

Heaven is in Cape Breton

So here we are at the college. There's lots of stuff going on. Classes start at 9 after breakfast that always includes porridge (good Scotish roots here, let me tell you). As we crossed the Mainland of Nova Scotia, we continued to follow in the path of some really impressive clouds. Bruce thought this one looked like a wave.
The college at St Ann's is a really special place where there is a sense of inclusion. All sorts of people, from every walk of life you can imagine, congregating for the purpose of learning something celtic: fiddle, harp, piano, drum, dance, weaving. I'm sure I've forgotten something there. And all the while, making new friends and sharing a love of the music. If ever you felt that you had no community, that you just didn't quite belong, Cape Breton has open arms waiting to take you in to show you another way of living.
Must run to my next classes. The start in just a few minutes. 2 Bodhran, 2 piano and a dance (yes, I am learning how to dance Strathspey and tomorrow we'll start on the reel steps). I'm looking forward to learning the other dance steps as this is also a time where we just don't sleep much. classes all day and dancing every night (just about). Good thing there's a bit of time in between for a nap.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


So, here we are in Gagetown. We drove through Montreal instead of leaving it until the morning and we were glad we did. There was hardly any traffic and a spectacular storm systme was moving in front of us offering up amazing cloud to cloud and ground strike lightning. From a little elevator conversation I had this morning, apparently all those ground strikes were happening in the place we ended up staying: St Hyacinthe (one of 10,000 Saints in the French-Canadian world).

However, St Hyacinthe was not the only place where there was action going on last night. No, no. After enjoying an evening at the Riverfest Jam in our home town of Carleton Place, Tara the dog sitter came home to let Shiela out and discovered the hard way that there was a skunk in the back yard. Nothing like capping off a great evening with a bit of eau de skunk. According to Tara, the dog beat a hasty retreat, threw herself upstairs, through a babygate and hid on one of the twins' beds. And all this was relayed to me at 2:08 am. I'm happy to say my evening had been much more tranquil.

Later I'll tell you all about our stay in Gagetown. There will be music and singing (surprise, surprise) and yarn and homemade jam. And pictures. Here's one for the road, which we are about to get back on.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

All 9 Muses

I've got one. I've talked about it long enough, and now I'm jumping in with both feet. I have joined the blogosphere. My purpose here is to keep track. Of what, you ask? The siren call of all my Muses. There will be Music and Knitting, Mothering and Musing, Writing and Ranting, Painting and Photography, and Me. My life is full of exciting and sometime tremulous moments. My nearest and dearest get to hear about them, usually at excited (perhaps sometimes overwhelmng) high volume. However, with each retelling, sometimes the shine comes off a bit with wear. This way, each of you can approach first-hand what I'm doing. As as needs be, have a little lie down at your leisure while I motor on.

As you might already have noticed, I like order. There's a lot going on and I don't want to miss any of it. I also don't like spending time looking for it (whatever it is). For example I don't like tearing apart the house looking for a CD of pictures which I've left in the stash room while also looking for sock yarn. Knitters, you know what I'm talking about. My life is all about multi-tasking. The topics of this blog with be...varied. I can't guarentee what you're going to find from post to post. Whichever Muse screams the loudest whither shall I follow. I'm helpless to do otherwise.

Philosphy behind it all
I've long understood that the Muses in my life call at their whim, not mine. In university, this meant that when essays and exams were all approaching at mind-numbing, breakneck speed, that would be the time I would have the greatest urge to write my book. Bending your will to the Muse means also bending the space/time continuum and when you can crack that, baby, you can really get stuff done.

So this is a place where I will do my own musing about my life and all the things that touch it. Expect many joys, a few sorrows, adventures, confusing half-conceived concepts, wise-cracks, etc. We're on this journey together now.

What's up next?
And speaking of journeys... I'm about to go off on one. With luck, there will be WiFi. As well, there will be music clips, photos and general mayham as The Man and I head East to Gaelic College for Music Camp. I'll post as I can.