post

A Very (COVID) Birthday

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my mother threw me a surprise birthday party. Well, the “surprise” part didn’t happen. My neighbourhood friend Kenny sort of gave it away early on. We were playing at his house a few days before and he couldn’t help saying “I’m so excited! I can hardly wait! Oops!” covering his mouth and giggling. I knew something was up.

On the day of the party, my mother sent me across the street to play in the park, while she secretly decorated the back yard. When she called me home, she put a blindfold on me and took my hand to lead me outside to the yard. It was very still and quiet, until I heard a giggle. Yep, it was Kenny. He just couldn’t keep quiet.

My blindfold came off to reveal all of my neighbourhood friends gathered to celebrate my birthday. It was a wonderful day.

Birthdays are a far more complicated event for parents these days. Theme parties, dress up parties, movie parties, adventure parties…you name it, there’s a way to make a kid’s party out of it. It’s exhausting to think about.

But this year…

Yes, this year, it’s a whole different story. Suddenly you can’t just book a party room at the movie theater, or arrange for a pool party at the rec centre for your kids. Even something as simple as my little surprise party in the back yard is better left for another time.

There have been some pretty inventive alternatives, though. Decorating the front yard in birthday balloons and paraphernalia, for instance, so that people can honk and wave happy birthday. Or sending your child an “animal gram” in the form of a video created for them with their favourite animal.

A birthday parade is a big hit this year, with friends and family decorating their cars and driving around in a fancy show. There are even virtual scavenger hunts and, in some special cases, the local fire department will drive one of their big trucks by the house and turn on the siren as a birthday wish.

My oldest adult daughter’s birthday was not ordinary this year, but not because of COVID. It took place back in mid-February, before there was any thought about Armageddon. We were in Hawaii, where she had never been, to celebrate a special year of accomplishments for her. We even went to a Luau the night of her birthday to celebrate. All was well in the world, and it turned out that she had the most normal birthday out of all of us.

Because by the next birthday in our household, my husband’s in early May, we were full fledged into the pandemic. I wasn’t ready to go into the mall to buy a card yet, even though the mall had opened by then. I ended up creating a book of photos from a big trip we took a couple of years ago, and making the card myself, the one pictured here, after researching some ideas online. We ordered in some food, had a little cake with candles, and did our best to make it normal.

This past week, my other daughter and I had our birthdays a few days apart. We’re in a different kind of birthday routine now, adjusting to a new way of doing things. In fact, it’s my birthday as I’m writing this. I’ve spent most of the day doing what I love to do, writing and painting, so it doesn’t take much to find my happy place. But right now there’s some whispering in the kitchen, and a match is being lit.

Something’s going on.

I swear, I can hear Kenny giggling…

post

Canada Day – A Different Way

Last week, I asked a few of my students what their plans were for Canada Day. Usually, that’s just a casual question you ask when a holiday is on the horizon. This year, however, the responses were decidedly different.

They would stop for a second, stare off somewhere, maybe chuckle, and shrug their shoulders.

Some had definite plans. “We’re going fishing,” one said. That seems safe enough. “Off to our cabin for a couple of days,” said another.

But most had no plans at all. No picnics or barbeques, no street parties, no fireworks or live shows to watch. Not even the usual Canada Day show from a stage set up somewhere in Ottawa, with all the Canadian stars and politicians in attendance.

Oh, there were other shows. Some live streaming and some on TV. But we’re getting used to those new formats now, aren’t we? They’re either live from their living rooms or some kind of “virtual” celebration. Or ninety-three people singing Oh Canada on Zoom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We’ve come up with a lot of wonderfully creative ways to celebrate special occasions lately, from solitary graduations to drive-by birthdays and weddings, and holiday car or bicycle parades. Where there’s a will, there’s a way to celebrate, and we Canadians love to do that. Especially on Canada’s birthday.

Normally, our family would either go down to the lawns of the legislature and be a part of the living flag, or maybe over to Fort Rodd Hill to celebrate our nation’s birthday there. At night, from our back deck, we always hear the fireworks going off. And the inevitable screech of seagulls flying above as they escape Armageddon.

My husband and I decided that this Canada Day it was time to see and be with our friends. In person. We have a great group of four couples who golf together, spend Christmases and birthdays together, and have done so for many years. It’s very unusual for us to go any longer than a month or two without seeing each other in person, but the last time we had been together as a group was last Christmas. That’s more than six months.

So we decided to host a back yard get together at our home on the afternoon of Canada Day, where everyone would bring their own appetizers and beverages, and we’d all sit an appropriate distance apart and just spend some time together. And it was great. It was wonderful to laugh together again, to share our COVID stories and experiences, to catch up on each other’s news and views. It lasted about 3 hours and it was perfect.

Three years ago, on Canada’s 150th birthday, I wrote a blog about having recently returned from Europe on our first big vacation there. I remember, very vividly, seeing Labrador through the plane’s window on the flight back, marveling at how massive Canada is and how little I’ve seen of it. It was a wonderful European vacation, but it was an especially warm feeling to come back home.

But this year, on Canada’s 153rd birthday, to be honest, I was really just happy to be here. Weren’t you?

We Canadians might have our disagreements. Okay, who am I kidding? We have lots of disagreements. We are certainly not perfect and still have a lot to work out for ourselves. But in spite of our differences, I think most of us would agree that we are darn lucky to live in this great country. And that has become so much more evident in the last few months as we’ve negotiated this strange new and frightening pandemic.

One very important reason for our luck is that we’ve had some well educated and intelligent people leading us through it all. And our humanity has been brought to the surface; instead of fighting each other, we’ve come together to help each other. We’ve learned to follow the protocols, listened to those who know what they’re talking about, and put up with new, uncomfortable rules. It’s been rough on a lot of us, and we’ve still got a long way to go.

But, Oh, Canada! I’ve never been prouder to stand on guard for thee.

post

Maybe Later

Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. That has pretty much been my mantra most of my life. When I was little, my Dad said I was lazy. But I think a lot of kids are told that. When you’re a child you’re caught up in whatever is fascinating you at the moment. Cleaning your room is not very fascinating.

Here I am, many, many years later, sitting down to write a blog because I don’t feel like cleaning my house. Some things never change.

We procrastinate for many reasons. Or excuses. Sometimes it’s because we just don’t want to face something. Like doing your taxes. Who wants to do that? And cleaning the toilet. Blech.

Procrastination can also be a sign of anxiety or depression, according to the experts. In that case, I imagine a lot of us are procrastinating right now, in spite of having more time on our hands. Being locked in your house with not much to look forward to, can do that to you. And there goes the excuse that things aren’t getting done because you don’t have enough time.

Not only that, procrastination can actually CAUSE anxiety and depression. Putting off the inevitable for any length of time allows it to hang over us and make us more miserable. And that, in turn, makes us even less likely to do what we need to. It’s a vicious cycle.

But under “normal” circumstances, what causes us to procrastinate? I’ll leave it up to the experts to go into more detail, but to make a long story short, it’s because we’re wired for instant gratification. I can either eat that donut now, or wait and reward myself after I lose 10 pounds. Hmmm.

I married someone who’s a “let’s get ‘er done” kind of guy, so we’ve had some obvious conflicts from time to time over the years. He told me a story about a fellow he worked with early on in his career who would always take the bull by the horns and get things done immediately. My husband respected that determination, so he tried to emulate it, and of course, attempted to get his wife and children to do the same.

And over time, wouldn’t you know? I have become more and more like that too. But not always.

For instance, I’m still sitting here rather than doing the housework. So I’m looking at the clock and giving myself 10 more minutes. I have ten more minutes to do what I enjoy before I have to go and do what I don’t.

Okay 20. Maybe 20 minutes.

As it turns out, we procrastinators are in good company. Leonardo Da Vinci was apparently someone who had trouble staying “focused”. You wouldn’t know it from the body of work he produced. But the story goes that it took him 16 years to finish the Mona Lisa.

I’ve seen the Mona Lisa painting in person and it’s not very big. 16 years?

And Margaret Atwood, whom we all know for her many novels, short stories and poetry, actually has trouble sitting down to write too. It usually takes her until 3 o’clock in the afternoon to get to it. She does that on purpose, apparently. So far, I’d say it’s working.

Which is why I’ve decided I’m waiting until 3pm this afternoon to get my house cleaning done.

Oh, shoot. It’s already after 4. Guess it won’t be today. Now, where’s that donut?

post

Hit The Road, Jack

So, hey! Where are you heading off to this summer? I hope you didn’t make any big travel plans that you had to cancel. We were supposed to go on our very first cruise to Alaska in August. Nope.

A cruise would be about the last thing I’d want to take right now. A flight comes in second to last. I know people are out there flying, but not me. The most we’ll do is a road trip somewhere.

Come to think of it, I really enjoy car-cations. I’ve driven all over BC, across to Alberta, and even down the Oregon coast to California a couple of times. One of my favourite road trips was a drive with my daughter through wine country in the Okanagan in a rented Mustang convertible, listening to 40’s jazz music. Perfect.

And I love driving through the Rockies, something I’ve done several times. Nothing beats that.

A couple of people I know have driven most of the way across Canada. That is a massive feat. When you fly across this country, you realize just how enormous it is and how impossible it would be to see it all. But this year especially, a lot of us will be spending more vacation time within our own borders and back yards. I think that’s a great thing.

(Article continues below)

A couple of years back, my husband and I decided that we would drive all the way up the east coast of Vancouver Island where we've never ventured in all of our years living here. Someone told us "Well, you know, past Campbell River you only see trees and mountains." Well, what's wrong with that?? I love trees and mountains. Isn't that what the wet coast is about? It turned out to be a great adventure and we loved Campbell River and places like Telegraph Cove and Port Hardy.

BC has lots of great places to visit. I prefer to drive through the smaller towns with funny names for streets, or silly town mascots. Like mascot Potato Jack in Pemberton, for instance. Or Peter Pine in Princeton. Apparently, Peter is of mixed race; his father was a pine, his mother a fir/spruce. And then there's Mr. PG in Prince George. He turns 60 this year!

Believe it or not, Saskatchewan is on my bucket list. I want to stand somewhere where I can look around 360 degrees and see forever. Some people think that's boring. Not me. And who wouldn't want to drive through little towns like Goodsoil or Choice Land...obviously good places to grow things.

Or Esterhazy. I wonder what they grow there?

Then again, maybe we'll end up being tourists in our own town. Sometimes you forget how many great things there are to see and do right where you live. There will be some protocols in place, of course, but we can handle that.

And we have our mascots here in Victoria too. There's Marty the Marmot and Harvey the HarbourCat, both always fun to see.

Which reminds me. Has anyone seen Mr. Floatie lately?

Maybe he's just social distancing.

post

Goat Fund Them

Moe the cat.

In this picture you’ll see where my cat Moe sometimes waits for me. I work in the basement of my home, so she often lies on the steps leading upstairs, staying there until I am done for the day.

The reason she is wearing a towel is because my daughter put it over her when they were upstairs, and Moe forgot to take it off. Well, I’m making excuses for her. She literally dragged that towel with her to the steps because she didn’t know how to get it off herself.

Cats are weird, aren’t they? Sometimes hilarious. As are dogs and parrots and pot bellied pigs, and, well, pretty much any animal. That’s why we can’t get enough of the YouTube videos chronicling their antics. They are delightfully entertaining, especially lately. For those of us who have pets, thank goodness they’ve been around to help us through. Dogs have been equally as happy to have us home, though I’m not so sure about all cats.

(Article continues below)

At different times in my life, I’ve had a dog, three budgies and four cats. I’ve laughed at their antics, and scolded their bad behaviour, and I’ve cried like a baby when they’ve died. I can’t imagine having lived without them all.

There has been a greater demand for pet adoptions in the last couple of months on the island, for obvious reasons. Animals make us happy and we need that right about now. Every time I watch Pet CHEK on CHEK News on Sunday evenings, where they feature different pets every week up for adoption from the Victoria Humane Society, I want all of them. Every one.

A couple of days ago, I got an email update from another animal organization through their Goat Fund Me (not a typo) campaign. The Beacon Hill Children’s Farm has been in existence for 35 years. They opened their barn doors just a couple of years before my children were born, and we visited them often, especially in the spring. My girls even volunteered there when they were in their teens.

It wasn’t until someone posted something in my Facebook news feed recently that it occurred to me that the kids might be suffering too. Goats, I mean.

This year, the farm had only been open less than a week when it was decided that it should close its doors because of the virus. When the story first came to light a couple of months ago, the hope was that sometime soon it would be able to open again. But now they have made the difficult decision to stay closed for the foreseeable future.

The only problem is that they still have a lot of costs: feed for over 100 animals, veterinarian bills, hay and sawdust, even insurance and phone bills (the roosters’ early morning long distance calls really add up).

Peanut Butter, the miniature horse, turns 29 this month. She needs some dental work done and has some health issues, but she’s looking forward to her cake. There are pigs, rabbits, ducks, geese, and alpacas too, all needing food, bedding and attention.

You pay by donation to visit, but that won’t be happening for some time yet. So that’s where we can jump in and goat fund them to help them get through the next few months.

Some day we’ll all be able to hang out at the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm again, and watch the kids in boundless joy jumping up and down on the rocks with reckless abandon.

Goats, I mean.