Monday, August 12, 2013

Past Deadline: Rip, Scrape, Sand and Add Grit

Here’s Past Deadline from the Aug. 1/13 issue of The Perth Courier.
Rip, scrape, sand and add grit
 I have a love/hate relationship with our stairs.
Actually, that’s not true. I have never loved them, and it would be more accurate to say I fear them more than hate them. Let’s just say I have a healthy respect for them.
Since moving into our house almost 14 years ago I have fallen down our stairs three times. I am gifted, apparently.
The first time was not long after we moved in. It was late. I subconsciously decided to go the fast way down the stairs to make sure I’d turned out the lights. “I’m okay!” I said.
Later, in shock, I decided to try fainting in the bathroom.
Good times!
That little trip resulted in a doctor visit, a prescription for anti-inflammatories and a brand new donut cushion thanks to a broken tailbone and an injured rotator cuff (I had braced for impact, which shoulders don’t appreciate.)
The next episode was dramatic because it happened while I was carrying baby Girlchild. Fortunately, I took the brunt of the fall (which didn’t involve most of the flight like the first time). Girlchild was alarmed but unhurt, and I escaped with a few bruises and a reminder to pay attention on “the stairs that hate me.”
I hasten to add here that it’s not as if I gallivant, traipse or partake in tom foolery on these stairs, it’s just that it’s an old house with a steep staircase made of treads for, apparently, small-footed (not to mention sure-footed) people. Or perhaps mountain goats. (For the moment let’s just ignore the fact I seem to be the only one who has trouble with the stairs, although many have commented on their steepness).
The third (and let’s hope final) time was a sleepy slip of the foot last autumn that found me careening down a half flight. That led to more quality time with the donut cushion, a lot of Advil and a busted (again) tailbone that has had quite enough of my shenanigans, thank you very much, and has not completely forgiven me.
Where am I going with this? Well, we decided to rip up the ancient carpeting on the stairs (only to discover an even more ancient green runner underneath).
Ancient green runner found under the ancient carpet.
Next comes the yanking out of a kazillion nails and staples, plus scraping and sanding.
Next comes the yanking out of a kazillion nails and staples, plus scraping and sanding.
Play safe when renovating, kids!
Play safe when renovating, kids!
Scraped, sanded...ready for painting.
Scraped, sanded…ready for painting.

That “distressed” look people pay hard-earned cash to achieve? We’ve got it in spades.
Next comes the painting.
Now, you might ask, is painting these treacherous (for me) stairs a wise move? Only time will tell.
We hope it will be just pretty, and not pretty dramatic.
Groom-boy picked up the paint for the treads the other day, and as I ran my finger over the splotch of colour they dab on the lid of the paint can, I panicked. “Groom-boy!” I said. “This doesn’t feel gritty! Didn’t you get the gritty stuff so I wouldn’t fall down the stairs?”
Groom-boy is heading back to the store for paint grit.
So, yes, if you come to our house (not recommended for anyone with dust allergies), then I am hopeful you will have traction on our vintage mountain-goat stairs. Personally, I hope to avoid having column fodder about my latest epic journey down the stairs, assuming I survive.
For now, in addition to utilizing stair grit, I will continue to hold the railing, descend slowly and show the utmost respect for the stairs.
Or maybe I should just tie the donut cushion to my bum as a preventive measure.

Past Deadline: 50 Shades of Brown

Still catching up…here is Past Deadline from July 25/13 published in The Perth Courier.

50 Shades of Brown
Sometimes I am such a geek.
Specifically, I am an MNR geek (Ministry of Natural Resources). I blame my father.
Some of you may have heard/noticed I am involved with the Friends of Murphys Point Park. On Saturday, we took part in 50th anniversary celebrations at Rideau River Provincial Park by hosting a barbecue.
Friends host barbecue at Rideau River.
Friends host barbecue at Rideau River.

Despite the fact Rideau has been our “sister park” for a few years now, I had not been there before. Actually, that’s not exactly true. A kazillion years ago when I was a Carleton journalism student (early 1990s), I was on a ride-along in the winter with a conservation officer and we drove by the park. I believe I was doing an article about poaching.
“That’s Rideau River Provincial Park,” the CO said as we drove by the entrance in the snowy darkness. And that was my big tour of the park.
So I was looking forward to finally getting a better glimpse of this far-off place (near Kemptville). I loaded up the kids and supplies and joined a gaggle of volunteers at the (awesome!) beach and picnic area on Saturday morning.
For the 50th anniversary party there were many activities, including voyageur canoe rides, a visit from the OPP marine unit, programs by Murphys Point staff and a display by Parks Canada, who also brought their mascot, Parka the beaver.
Parka wasn’t the only mascot around, though. Smokey Bear also made a couple of appearances, to which I said, “Smokey Bear! Too coooool! Someone has to take a picture of me with Smokey Bear so I can send it to my dad!”
(At this point the people around me said, “Sure, crazy lady in her 40s. We’ll do whatever you want because you’re just a little bit scary.”)
Yeaaaaah! Smokey Bear!!!
Yeaaaaah! Smokey Bear!!!

Then – as if THAT wasn’t enough – some of the current Rideau River staff showed up wearing vintage park uniforms!
Crazy lady calls excitedly to fellow volunteer/BFF Cindy. “Omigod! Look! They’re wearing our uniforms!”
Indeed, we flashed back to those fabulous early ’90s when the two of us worked as gate attendants at Murphys Point and sported dark brown shorts, beige short-sleeved dress shirts and the lovely baby-poo brown blazers (for those chilly evening shifts).
Good times!
And THEN, as if Smokey Bear and 50 Shades of Brown weren’t enough, the conservation officers arrived!
The whole reason I am the geek that I am (at least on this front) can be attributed to my dad, a retired CO. I have learned a lot from him about natural resources in general and protecting them in particular. “Grampy was a nature cop,” I tell my kids with pride.
I lurked around and name-dropped with the COs for a bit, but they didn’t seem nearly as excited about me being a CO’s daughter as I was (“Did you get a load of the crazy lady? Yeesh!” they probably said on the way home.)
Anyway, the next treat was a canine unit demonstration by Conservation Officer Colin Cotnam from Bancroft and his dog, Tanner. They went through a basic obedience demonstration and then showed off some of Tanner’s investigative skills. He is trained to sniff out a variety of things that hunters and anglers might be trying to hide. Did you know MNR dogs can not only find contraband fish, but they can differentiate several different species, too? That means they won’t go after your minnows, but if you’re hiding too many brook trout, look out!
Conservation Officer Colin Cotnam rewards Tanner for a job well done.
Conservation Officer Colin Cotnam rewards Tanner for a job well done.

That evening I told my dad all about it, of course. Sort of like, you know, an excited kid/crazy lady.
Happy birthday, Rideau River. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Past Deadline: United by Rail

Here is Past Deadline, published in The Perth Courier on July 18/13.
United by rail
I hear the train horns now.
I grew up here, just a couple of blocks from the tracks. It was close enough to know when a particularly heavy freight was going through because it rattled the windows.
My parents and Nan could tell by the sound of the horn which way the wind was blowing and whether a storm was coming. I never got the knack of the weather prediction, but if the sound drowns out the TV I know it’s a north wind.
We could also tell when certain engineers were on duty. One guy who tended to really lay on the horn, especially when there were letters to the editor complaining about the noise of the trains.
Still, for the most part, I haven’t really “heard” the trains for years. I sleep through them. The kids sleep through them. They have just been part of the normal sounds of life in Perth.
Since July 6, though, I’ve started hearing them. It’s probably a good thing.
July 6 was the date of the horrifying train derailment and explosion at Lac-Mégantic, Quebec that killed about 50 people and destroyed part of the town. That night no one heard the runaway train coming until it was too late to stop it.
Since the crash there have been stories and interviews locally about how Perth is prepared to handle such an emergency. After all, the freights that pass through here can measure 2 kilometers in length, which is enough to block three or four crossings in town, depending on where a train stops.
Yes, we have contingencies for blocked crossings. We know what to do if there is a derailment – who to call, who to evacuate, etc. Short of preventing the trains from passing through at all, we’re as ready as we can be.
Can anyone really be ready for something the scope of Lac-Mégantic? Probably not.
Dangerous materials are transported by rail. Take a look at the symbols on the tank cars next time you’re stopped at a crossing. You probably don’t want to know the types of things that are going through our town – past our schools, hospital, long-term care homes, through subdivisions. Or maybe you do want to know.
Whether you know what’s in there or not, the simple fact is a serious derailment would not be a good thing.
One night last week, when it was cool enough to throw open the windows, a couple of trains went through. As the horns blew I stopped what I was doing and listened.
I’ve always loved trains. When I was a rebellious teen working at Burger King, the tracks were directly behind the restaurant and I used to imagine hopping aboard a slow-moving westbound freight and riding the rails to the prairies. (What I would have done when I got there I’m not exactly sure.)
Anyway, for me, the sound of the train horn is all wrapped up in romantic visions of travel and Canadian history. It was the railway that brought much of Canada together, after all. As I listened that night to the train horn it still seemed as iconic as the call of the loon, and just as mournful.
Now it also sounds like danger.
That’s the whole point, I suppose. Train horns are a warning: “Clear the way! Big, heavy machine coming!”
It just seems even more poignant now, especially as you sit at a crossing and see the same type of black tank cars flying through town that crashed and exploded at Lac-Mégantic.
What is the answer? I don’t know, but my thoughts are with Lac-Mégantic every time I hear the trains.

Past Deadline: Mid-Year Progress Report

Here is Past Deadline from the July 11/13 issue of The Perth Courier.
Mid-year progress report
 I am famous for making self-improvement pledges/resolutions that often fall by the wayside. You may recall such classics as: 1. I am going to get up early and exercise! 2. I am going to eat less! 3. I am going to exercise more!
Gah. A resolution that wasn’t on the list this year was: “Replace entire wardrobe with clothes that fit!” Perhaps I should add that so I can feel as if I have accomplished something.
Anyway…something that has been working out a bit better despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to “dampen our spirits” is a resolution to spend more time outside with the kids.
This resolution has morphed a little, though, to combine with another one that was contemplated but unspoken. It may sound a bit odd coming from someone who works from home, but I want to try to spend more quality time with the kids.
I’ve long gotten over the fact that working from home automatically means I will be a Domestic Diva and Super Mom. (Ha.) My house is definitely not the cleanest on the block. In fact, I think that being here most of the time actually turns me off of making things spotless.
I can live with that. (Sort of.) Something that truly bugs me, though, is that even though I have excelled at seeing the kids off to school in the morning and greeting them when they come home, sometimes I am not really “here.”
Computer games and the TV have been babysitters over the years whilst I slave away at work deadlines in the home office. While I know there is value to having been physically here for them, it hasn’t always been quality time.
Summer is here. (It is. Really. Don’t let the monsoon rains fool you.) Yes, there will be times when I have to tune out the kids and get some work done, but I’ve got to make time to do fun stuff.
When the kids were babies, I worked weird hours – e.g., when they were sleeping. Chopping up my day so that we can spend time at the beach or on a hike or playing badminton or going to the playground or traipsing around in swamps isn’t far-fetched.
It has become increasingly clear over the years that, sometimes, kids don’t know how to play the way my generation did. With all those screen temptations, why bother going outside? So, I’ll continue to teach them.
We have a provincial park annual pass for day use – look out, Murphys Point, here we come!
At Hogg Bay Beach, Murphys Point.
At Hogg Bay Beach, Murphys Point.

Once exception to the “outside” rule is the Perth indoor pool. There is public swimming Monday through Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. (free on Wednesdays thanks to Tim Hortons and Saturdays thanks to the Perth Fire Fighters Association). The kids and I went for our first summer excursion last Friday.
It was great. The day camp kids were there so Girlchild knew a whole pile of girls. They were having a blast – there was music and they were singing and even dancing – great entertainment at a low price!
Aside from the day camp counsellors and lifeguards, I was the only “adult” in the pool. My kids can both swim and they immediately migrated towards their friends, so they didn’t really “need” me there.
No matter. I did scissor kicks for a straight hour! (Exercise! Yes!) I enjoyed the music. I could definitely make a habit of this – and the kids had fun.
Time is marching on. The kids are growing up so fast. It’s never too late for quality time.
Next stop: the swamp!

Past Deadline: Harbouring a Fugitive

Here is Past Deadline from the July 4/13 issue of The Perth Courier.
Harbouring a fugitive
 You may have noticed (if you are a regular reader) that I think it’s important to get kids connected with nature.
Possibly you’ve heard me prattle on about how I spent half my childhood mucking about in swamps catching frogs, turtles, tadpoles, snakes, snails, minnows, crayfish and all manner of cool critters.
So when I landed a summer job at Murphys Point Provincial Park after my first year in university, it was pretty awesome that I got to actually help with programs that taught people about some of those cool critters, and I learned even more about them myself.
One of the things that wasn’t so cool was the gypsy moth study. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, too, but bear with me – there’s a theme here.
A kazillion years ago when I was a student (1990s), gypsy moths were a relatively new invasive species that were a huge problem. They were deforesting huge tracts. The Ministry of Natural Resources was studying the problem and was conducting aerial spraying programs and various preventive measures.
Provincial parks were logical places for studies, and students helped. That meant I had a thrilling task. Someone official had tied burlap sacks around a cluster of tree trunks in a wooded area near the park office. On designated days I got to trudge off to this area and lift up the burlap, exposing wiggly masses of gypsy moth caterpillars, which I counted and recorded for each tree.
And then, because lifting up the wiggly sack wasn’t gross enough, I had to pick up a stick or a rock and squish all those evil, nasty, dastardly forest killers.
I know it seems odd that the girl who goes seeking cool critters was squeamish about this task, but I’ve never been crazy about a) insects that hide in dark places or b) killing throngs of them. I like caterpillars per se, but not dark, squirmy, destructive masses of them.
Besides, sometimes the caterpillar guts would fly into my face.
The subject trees were located in a low area beside the road on the way to the gatehouse, so more than a few campers driving in witnessed a tall, gangly, frizzy-haired girl in a brown and beige uniform beating a tree with a rock and periodically squealing. I think the campers stayed despite that ominous sign.
Anyway, the reason I bring up these happy memories is because, ironically, Girlchild is currently nurturing a gypsy moth caterpillar. She calls “him” Poochie and he lives in a lovely little bug terrarium.
She cleans the container faithfully. Each day she collects new, fresh maple leaves and rinses them off so Poochie has some water droplets. He munches the leaves voraciously. (I should look up that study to see which flavour of trees were preferred in the 1990s. I suspect it was maple.)
We have watched Poochie shed his skin a few times and, currently, he has positioned himself in a secluded corner of the terrarium and appears ready to enter the pupae stage. She even took Poochie to school for the class to see. By the end of the summer we should have a, uh, beautiful gypsy moth in our midst.
We were at the park on the weekend and told a park naturalist about Girlchild’s little project. “Oh,” he said, grinning at me. “Well, one more gypsy moth won’t hurt.” Then he said he had never seen one pupate, so we promised to take pictures.
It has been pretty cool to watch so far, actually. In small doses, I’m all over the gypsy moth life cycle, even if it does feel a bit like harbouring a fugitive.
 (P.S. – We’re still waiting for the pupae stage. Poochie shed his skin and continued on his merry munchy way, but we expect a new phase soon!)

Past Deadline: The Band Played On

Here is Past Deadline from the June 27/13 issue of The Perth Courier.
The band played on
 I’m going to do it again. I am going to talk about the weather. I’m sorry, it’s just that weather turned out to be a rather major preoccupation on the weekend.
I’m a big fan of the “rock hanging from a string in the yard” method of weather forecasting. You, know: if the rock is wet it’s raining, if it’s white it’s snowing, if it’s swinging it’s windy…and so on. Dress in layers and carry an umbrella and sunscreen everywhere you go. Welcome to Canada.
Unfortunately, though, looking out the window at a rock isn’t a terribly reliable method for longer-range forecasting.
On Saturday, I was left in charge of making the call about whether an outdoor evening concert at Murphys Point would proceed. The weather had been unsettled all day. The sound guy was on standby. The band needed to know by 5 p.m.
Suddenly I had to be a meteorologist. Me, the one who looks out the window for up-to-the-minute guidance, had to decide by 5 p.m. whether an outdoor concert scheduled for 8 p.m. would actually be hindered by predicted thunderstorms.
Dudes. The weather changes every 10 minutes here.
I went online and consulted with Environment Canada. Various radar perspectives were conflicting. One version made it look almost certain we would be pummeled, while another predicted clearer skies. The Weather Network added to the ominous version.
Add to the mix the fact there can be a great variance between the conditions in Perth and those 20 minutes away on the Rideau system and I was a puddle of uncertainty.
Googling “Omigod should I cancel the concert tonight” was not helpful.
I considered “tweeting” CBC weather guy Ian Black (he’s on the Twitter, you know) to ask what he would do, but I figure he gets asked stuff like that all the time and it must be terribly annoying, so I refrained.
Instead I did what I do best: I harassed all my friends. (I like to call it “consulting to make a collegial decision.”)
I called the sound guy three times and texted him, too. Adam proved to be optimistic and good to go. Rain was no problem, he said, although thunder and lightning wouldn’t be so good.
I checked with the ever-patient Alida at the park about 47 times. Okay – maybe only three or four times. I asked the other volunteers and Groom-boy for their opinions. One volunteer was driving towards us from southern Ontario through torrential rain. (Eeep.)
It wasn’t looking super good. The sky was darkening. The radar wasn’t telling me anything definitive and Ian Black hadn’t channeled my inner thoughts to send a spontaneous tweet that said, “For anyone planning an outdoor event tonight, here’s what I would do….”
So I called the band. They, too, had been checking the radar and were just as uncertain. We were about one dark cloud away from calling the whole thing off, but the band decided to play on!
We were off! Adam (and dad Steve) and I got started with preparations. The sky was clear and it seemed like a really nice evening was in store.
Then the band called en route. “We’re in Merrickville. It’s pouring! Should we continue?”
I gave the sky the stink eye. It was brightening. There was a lovely breeze. Loons were calling. “It’s quite lovely here,” I said.
And so the Celtic Rathskallions set forth once more. They arrived, they put on an awesome show, the audience cheered and not a drop of rain fell.
Hurray! (And phew!)
The Celtic Rathskallions. Stephanie Gray photo
The Celtic Rathskallions. Stephanie Gray photo
(This little weather drama pales in comparison to the terrible flooding out west. My thoughts are with family and friends dealing with this crisis.)

Past Deadline: Which Way to the Beath?

Here is Past Deadline from the June 20/13 issue of The Perth Courier.
Which way to the beach?
 As I write this, there are 10 more sleeps until the kids’ last day of school.
I mean, “Yaaaay!”
(No…I really mean gulp.)
There are lots of things to love about summer, such as the warm days (or, in our case, the memory of such things because spring certainly hasn’t set the stage), the ability to sleep in a few minutes later (for those people who aren’t waging a hideous war with their alarm clocks in some ridiculous effort to trick their brains into thinking they should get up earlier and exercise) and…hmm. What was I talking about?
Oh, yes. I am desperately seeking the silver lining for the kids being home for the summer. Er…I mean…I am listing the top-of-mind happy reasons why I am totally psyched, as a work-at-home mom, for the kids to be around me 24-7 for a couple of months.
Right. So I think I left off at the part where I don’t have to make bagged lunches every night. Yesssssss! Seems like a simple thing but, man, I get tired of that job, and I know the kids get tired of eating what I pack as my imagination wanes for lunch ideas in the dying days of the school year.
And, of course, there’s vacation to look forward to – that week or two when the whole family traipses off on some sort of awesome adventure and Mom gets a total break from domestic drudgery. I mean, except for the packing. And, if a cottage is involved, the meal prep. Oh, and the avalanche of laundry when it’s all over.
But it’s totally worth it!
What else…what else…. Oh, yes! The promises! Each summer I make a mental note – and even sometimes commit it to paper – about all the cool little things I’ll do to make summer vacation more fun for the kids. You know, such as trips to the beach at Murphys Point or to actually take our canoe out on the Tay or go fishing or hiking or walking or biking. We’ll play more games and fly kites.
Murphys Point Provincial Park. S. Gray photo
Murphys Point Provincial Park. S. Gray photo
Did I mention I have flexible hours – but that I work all summer?
Maybe I’ll put a little note at the end of the list – whether it’s a mental or paper one – to try not to feel the usual guilt when September rolls around and I realize all the things we didn’t get around to doing.
Time really does fly and it’s hard to catch – even with a bug net.
The silly thing is, every year the same thing happens. I dive into summer with grand plans, and end it saying I have to do things differently next year. The thing is, each year the kids are another year older, so a strategy that might have worked last year may not apply this year.
What I need is a plan.
Clearly I must win the lottery. Obviously this would solve all of the above issues. Without the need to work, the kids and I could hang out at the beach and/or fly kites and go fishing whenever we want. In fact, we could just purchase a “summer home” and be done with the whole commuting to a lake issue. This is the way to go.
If I don’t win the lottery for some reason (e.g. never buying tickets), then the obvious answer is to get up earlier. I’ll get my work done at the crack of dawn and free up time later in the day for the beach.
Yes! It’s a good plan!
(At this rate I will be getting up for the day at 3 a.m. Pass the coffee, please.)

Past Deadline: Polar Dip...In June

Here’s the column, from The Perth Courier published June 13/13:
Polar dip…in June
 On Sunday, it was sunny for the first time in what seemed to be 1,241 days.
Did you see it? Wasn’t it awesome?
Part of the reason it seemed like such a long time in my world was because I was away at a conference during the short-lived heat wave. I was stationed in a hotel and pretty much missed the whole thing. I felt like a little plant that had missed out on some much-needed sunshine.
It was sunny when I left Toronto, but the rain chased me home and I arrived with driving rain and a brilliant lightning show.
Pathetic fallacy? Well, the house was in good shape, so no need for storm clouds. Besides, I was too tired.
The next day I checked out the growth in the veggie patch during the four days I had been gone. Where nothing had been showing before, three-inch plants now stood in rows. They had thrived during the heat.
That day, on the Sunday, I assembled what we refer to at our house as “the cold tub.” It’s a little pool that’s not much bigger than a hot tub – fun for the kids and deep enough for adults to benefit from a dip on really hot days.
pool and garden
The water came straight from the hose and was frigid, but we, for some dumb reason (we’re Canadian – you’d think we’d know better) figured it would warm up quickly. After all, it was June and we’d just had a hot spell. Even though the pool is mostly in the shade, it wouldn’t be a problem.
That was the beginning of the rains, as you may have noticed, and as it persisted it made me gloomy and grumpy.
Those frosty June nights were good for sleeping, at least. They were not, however, good for warming up the cold tub.
For many days the cold rain fell from a grey sky. I figured Spa Gris would be shut down until the skies cleared – but no! I neglected to take the perseverance and intestinal fortitude of children into account.
Yes, I remember, swimming in the rain as a kid. I also remember splashing in a pool as cold as 65 degrees F, although 68 was my preferred lower limit.
During that cold, rainy week, Boychild and Girlchild came home from school and would, sometimes with friends, leap into the cold tub. They wouldn’t necessarily stay in long – kind of a June Polar Plunge – and it was often followed by hot showers and/or hot chocolate. (Hot chocolate in June. Yeesh.)
Then came Sunday, the day full of the promise of warmth with that giant yellow orb gleaming in the sky. (“My eyes! My eyes! What blinding scourge is this?” cried cloud-weary eastern Ontarians.)
As expected, the kids donned their bathing suits and fled to the cold tub. They splashed in and out. They begged me to join them; last year we had made many whirlpools – loads of fun.
I reluctantly agreed. Gotta be a role model and “Play Outside” even if it kills me.
Holy smokes. If the water in that pool was 60, I’d be surprised. I did not stay in for long, and I did not go in deeper than my waist.
The good news is my feet have been sore and standing in the pool negated any need for me to ice them.
The bad news is I think I have hypothermia. Plus, I wore a bathing suit for the first time this season and, oh my, there is a lot of work to do.
Let’s just say there will be many…uh…laps around the cold tub in my future.

Past Deadline: Looking for Meta Bolism and Will Power

Here’s Past Deadline from the June 6/13 issue of The Perth Courier:

Looking for Meta Bolism and Will Power
Once the weather started warming up, I hauled out my summer duds.
Something went terribly wrong.
Some capris didn’t seem to fit as well as they did last year. The blue ones were a little tight. So were the beige ones. And…oh dear.
I couldn’t even blame the new washing machine since those clothes had not yet been introduced to it.
No, I knew exactly who to blame: Groom-boy.
Okay. Not Groom-boy. Just because he does the vast majority of the grocery shopping for the household doesn’t mean I have to reciprocate by eating the vast majority of it.
What it boils down to is a combination of long-time bad habits and a lengthy winter of sitting and eating, during which time my dear friend Meta Bolism packed up and left town. I will have to get moving – and I mean really moving – to recover this friend. While I’m at it, I should look for Meta’s crony, Will Power.
Will Power used to stand beside me and convince me not to snack so much – a mental hand slapper. I’m pretty good at leaving junk food in a store, but not so good at ignoring it if it’s in the house. Or on my plate.
I’ve thought a lot about how to incorporate more exercise into my schedule. Very recently it occurred to me the time I seem to have the most control over is early in the morning. (You know, when I am sleeping.)
Eureka! I should take advantage of this! (As if this is the first time I have ever had this thought.)
I wish I could tell you I love getting up early and that this Grand Plan is not doomed to failure. I am MUCH better at staying up late and getting things done, but exercising too close to bedtime wakes me up, which means I don’t sleep well, which is bad news for everyone near me the next day.
So, the Grand Plan was to work on going to bed a tiny bit earlier each night and waking up a wee smidge sooner – a process stretching over several weeks until voila! I have enough time to do some exercise before the work day starts.
Such a good, logical plan, but why is it so hard to implement? Probably because the routine has been around for a kazillion years or so.
Anyway, baby steps have been taken and minutes are being won incrementally, but it’s hard to prevent pessimism from overtaking this contest.
And then I went away on a conference.
I love conferences. I learn lots and someone feeds me, takes away the dirty dishes and makes my bed. Truly awesome.
But it’s not home, so sometimes sleep is tricky, and when the alarm goes off it’s, well, alarming. And it can seem super early.
Plus there is all that sitting and eating and sitting and eating. As proud as I am that I skipped dessert for all but one meal and I watched portion sizes, it was still more than I would normally eat. For instance, you won’t find anyone eating a full breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes at my house every morning. Even a little of that is a lot.
Needless to say, that didn’t help me to fit comfortably into the dress I brought for the last day.
Anyway, this is a new week full of lots or mornings and evenings to work with, and there is always the possibility of a positive outcome.
Besides, for all those times I wake up before my alarm to stew about things, I might as well make good use of the time.

Past Deadline: Bows and Snaps and Bathrooms, Oh My!

Here is Past Deadline from the May 30/13 issue of The Perth Courier.

Bows and snaps and bathrooms, oh my!
On Friday night I was standing in a girls’ washroom at PDCI (my old high school) waiting for some very short people to emerge from the stalls. The woman beside me, asked: “Are you going to write about this?”
It’s a tough call. Sometimes the best stuff really can’t be written about here, especially when it relates to bathrooms in small towns.
I was there as a volunteer for at the annual recital held by Arts in Motion: Perth School of Dance. This is the fifth year my daughter has been involved, and every year it is an absolute delight to watch the culmination of months of work by the students, teachers and organizers.
The orchestration of show nights never fails to leave me awestruck, mostly because coordinating events tends to give me the “no” feeling and I prefer to leave that task to others. I’ll happily volunteer, as long as someone else is telling me what to do.
This year I helped in the cafeteria, where a crew kept the primary students amused while they awaited their turn on stage.
By default, the primary team always spends long periods of time in the bathroom. The wee students (pardon that pun) are escorted to and from the bathroom, and often the smallest ones need help with their costumes. Invariably there are unreachable snaps or tricky buttons or bows to be tied. Sometimes this can be an issue in urgent situations involving the youngest students!
When you have a group of raincoats or reindeer all needing bows tied or antlers adjusted simultaneously in the bathroom, things can get a bit busy.
After one particularly long spell in the bathroom, I emerged and took a deep breath. “That bathroom kinda stinks,” I said to one of the volunteers.
“Should we get one of the janitors?” she asked.
“I don’t think it’s something the janitor can fix,” I said. Ironically, there are signs in the bathroom warning against using scented products. It’s working!
I love my old school, but parts of it are showing their age, which is waaaaay older than I am.
It’s interesting to watch the way the dynamics of the group unfold as the show progresses. The primary area is always busy and noisy. The kids are excited and one of our jobs is to try to keep the dancers relatively calm. Running and over-exuberance are kept in check.
As each different dance group (there are about half a dozen or so) has its turn, though, the excitement changes in tone. The groups return, the pressure is off and the dancers relax.
Now, when you and I relax it might mean grabbing a juice box (or some other fruity adult beverage), putting our feet up and chillin’ with a good book or to read the latest wacky headlines about the Ford family.
Not so with tiny dancers. When they relax, they kick it up a notch. There is more running and squealing. “We might as well just let them snack on a bag of sugar,” I said to another volunteer.
“Good job! Have a cup o’ granulated sweetness!”
Of course I am only speaking for the Friday experience, which is the first show night. It’s quite possible that on Saturday night everyone is much more refined and sitting around quietly sipping tea. I don’t know because that’s my night to watch the show.
“Back in Time” featured wonderful music and costumes and, of course, dancing. Girlchild and her highland class performed “Brigadoon Wedding Dance,” and all that leaping around in the living room paid off!
Congratulations to everyone for another excellent show!
I’ll see you in the bathroom again next year.