Wouldn’t it be nice

 

I woke this morning with my demons gleefully doing their best to destroy me. I tried for about 15 minutes to silence them, but today they were pretty fierce in their attack — so, I got up and made coffee.

Then, I went — don’t ask me why — in search of my old journals. Started reading some stuff I’d written over 20 years ago. Needless to say that was embarrassing.

And that’s when the Beach Boys made their appearance. Wouldn’t it be nice, they sang, and then I filled in the rest.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back and tell that younger version of yourself to not be so fucking self-indulgent, self-centred and selfish? Most of what I read that I’d written those long years ago I didn’t even remember — and it made me embarrassed that I’d bothered to write it at all.

So that makes me wonder if, perhaps, I’ve completely misunderstood the purpose of journaling. While I always thought it was a way of expressing your innermost thoughts, the stuff you don’t tell even your best friend, and a way of purging the mind and soul of your darkest secrets, it turns out that reading that stuff later on is a tad unsettling.

I read about troubles in my marriage, parenting faux-pas on a grand scale, and bitter arguments with friends. I read about how I had handled these events, and I was appalled at how badly I had actually mishandled them.

Now, here I sit, sipping coffee that is too weak, because, when your demons send you tilting you forget how much coffee to put in the filter, feeling like the world’s worst human being. All because of some words I wrote a long time ago.

These feelings will pass. The immediate urge I had to pick up my phone and call or text apologies to those I felt I had harmed is passing. Can you imagine the surprise and discomfort following through on that would have caused. More angst!

What should I do with all those old journals? The first thought to come to mind is to burn them. I sure as hell don’t want another visit in those fraught pages. Do I want anyone reading those thoughts after I’ve died? What if I were to drop dead today?

I know that not everything I put in my journals was sad, bad or depressing, it just happened that that is what I stumbled upon today. Still, revisiting the past like that is a severe jolt.

In a way, I suppose, it’s a good thing.

Looking back on that younger version of myself I can see that despite my mistakes, my vanities, my frailties I was trying. Trying to understand myself and those I love and trying, most of all to do the right thing.

Hopefully, those that matter most in my life know that, and hopefully it is enough.

And, hopefully, the next time my demons come to visit I can tell them to take a flying leap. The past is in the past; my journals are proof of that.

 

 

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Is that a cow or a deer in the road?

Getting older is a funny thing. It’s not at all what I thought it would be. When I thought about it in my 20s and 30s.

Way back then, when I thought about getting older, it was something far, far off in the distance — like that wavery, shimmery image you sometimes see when you’re driving down a summer road and there are no other cars in sight. It’s there, but it’s not quite real.

Then, suddenly, it is there, right in front of you. The line on the horizon is clear and sharp and you see, plain as day, that there is a deer, or maybe a stray cow, standing in the middle of the road. You hammer on the brakes, your heart leaps into your throat, you nearly pee your pants, but, miraculously, you avoid a collision. The cow stares back, unperturbed; the deer flicks its white tail saucily and bounds daintily on its way.

You’re left shaking, maybe crying a little, glad that you’re alive, that the cow or the deer is alive and you restart the car and carry on your way. A lot more cautiously. And it occurs to you that life is unpredictable, and oh, so tenuous. You vow to be more careful, to pay better attention, to enjoy every moment given to you from that moment on.

But, as time passes the memory of that moment fades and you start wondering if it really happened the way you think it did. Was the cow or the deer really just standing there, or was it meandering across the road? Did you really screech to a halt in a panic, or did you simply tap the brakes as you swerved to miss the animal? Were you imagining the fear and the emotion of the moment, or did saying so just make for a better story?

Getting older, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as scary as I once imagined it would be. I mostly travel at a safe speed, pay better attention in my travels and tend to see things as they are, when they are.

Instead of not expecting the unexpected, or being unprepared to expect the unexpected, I’ve learned that just over the next rise, or just past that next shiny spot in the road is something that’s going to challenge me and that I can pretty much handle whatever it is in my path.

Sometimes I miss that feeling of invincibility I had when I was younger, that romantic notion that age could never catch up with me, the feeling that the road in front of me was going to stretch on into forever. Then I look behind me and see the road full of the obstacles, the yield and stop signs, the people and places I’ve passed by and through on my way to making it to where I am now, and I’m glad and I’m grateful.

 

 

My Zero to Sixty is a little slow

slow slug snail shell

Photo by Chris Peeters on Pexels.com

 

41.  Dealing BlackJack at Klondike Days. I had to attend dealer’s school for two weeks prior to KDays. It was fun, nerve-wracking and a little scary. During one of my shifts some guy got mad because he didn’t like the way the cards were coming — yelled at me, swore at me, threatened me — coolest thing ever happened — the Pit Boss jumped in right away (like they said they would) temporarily closed my table, removed me and had the guy thrown out. I decided dealing cards was not a career I would pursue.

42.  Living in a tiny pre-war house with Tim before and after we got married. This house was seriously small! It had a dirt basement and an oil furnace/heater thing in the basement that was supposed to keep us warm in the winter. It didn’t do a very good job. Because we were young, we spent a lot of time in bed, keeping ourselves warm. We shared this house with two cats and a dog. They entertained themselves while we were at work by knocking things off shelves, and Brandy, the dog, would get the belt to my house coat and pull the cats around the house with it. Even better was its location — right next to the train tracks, Edmonton municipal airport, 118th avenue and Kingsway Mall. But, boy, was it cheap!

43.  Being there for my parents when they needed help. My dad was diagnosed with cancer; my mom fractured her leg. They needed someone to stay with them for a while to help out. I am so glad I was able to do that for them. It gave us a chance to get to know one another again, and I was able to spend precious time with my father before he passed away.

44.  Singing with my sisters. We haven’t done it in a long time, but when my sisters and I were younger we loved to get together and serenade whoever happened to be around. We did this at our parents’ anniversary parties, in restaurants, at weddings, even in my living room. None of us are very good on our own, but can we harmonize!

45.  Hiking the Sulphur Skyline trail in Jasper — twice. The views are spectacular.

46.  Learning calligraphy. I love the ornate, yet simple beauty of calligraphy. It is something I mean to take up again.

47.  Writing poetry. I never thought I could, or that I could write good poems. Then I took part in a month-long poem a day challenge and discovered that I could. Do both. Now I write poetry when the moment seizes me. I’ve never had any published, but there’s still time.

48.  Taking English riding lessons. They were a birthday gift from a friend. I learned everything from the ground up — saddling, caring for the horse, horse etiquette and the basics of movement. It was a fun 8 weeks.

49.  Teaching myself how to bake bread. Who doesn’t love fresh, homemade bread? I remember our mom making it and coming home to the smell of fresh bread, it being still warm from the oven and biting into a fresh, warm bun slathered in peanut butter and honey. I had to learn how to do that.

50.  Starting a home-based writing business. I mainly did resumes, but also letters and other forms of correspondence. I helped a lot of people get jobs and that felt really good.

Zero to Sixty – the next installment

asphalt dark dawn endless

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

It’s been a busy month. I’m finally getting around to the next few achievements in my life thus far. It’s tough thinking about your life — what you have and have not done with it. I re-read my previous posts to get an idea of what I’d already written about and I was pleasantly surprised. My life has been a good one.

Here goes with some more of what sticks out for me:

36.  Taking a road trip to Arizona with Tim, and my brother and sister-in-law Rick and Connie. We drove to Vegas, then to Sedona. The scenery was breathtaking. We stopped at the Grand Canyon — truly as beautiful as the postcards make it. I can see why Canadians flock there in the winter.

37.  Going by motorcycle from our home in Bon Accord, AB to Dartmouth, NS. We were gone for three absolutely incredible weeks. We drove through every major city along the way, followed the Loyalist route and King’s Highway through Ontario and Quebec, had a lobster roll in Shediac, NB, walked the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy, saw Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine, ate deep dish pizza in Chicago, drove by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, slept like the dead in Toledo, and along the way we met some of the nicest and best people – on both sides of the border.

38.  Taking our son to Disney World for his 10th birthday. This was the only flying holiday we ever had as a family. We had so much fun on that trip — we also took in Universal Studios — Ghostbusters, The Jetsons, Indiana Jones; went to Sea World — hand fed sting rays, pet sea urchins, got splashed by Namu; and went to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Science center – Tim and Landon were completely in awe of all the space craft and the simulation command center.

39.  Being elected President of our Local Union — SSD#24 Local 4625. I held this position for 7 years and it was one of the most rewarding and personal growth opportunities I’ve ever had. I learned so much about people during that time — and how important it is to be involved and knowledgeable about how work works.

40.  Summer holidays spent in the back of a station wagon when mom and dad would take us home to Ontario. No air conditioning, eight kids — one in front with mom and dad, two in the back and five in the middle. My sister and I would be on the floor with pillows behind the front seat and the other three would share the seat. Dad telling stories about the Indian braves Falling Rock and Sharp Shoulders. Black flies, no-seeums and mosquitoes. Dad teaching us to skip rocks. The sound of loons in Northern Ontario when we were camped for the night. Mom making baloney sandwiches while dad drove — soft white bread, a slice of baloney and mustard — the best sandwiches ever.

Zero to Sixty, continued

architecture buildings business city

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

23.  Getting married. My husband, Tim, entered my life like a tornado. He was, and always has been, a force to be reckoned with. Funny, full of life, big-hearted, loyal, opinionated, joyful, energetic, frenetic, and in general a lover of life. I credit him with so much of the good in my life — loving him has taught me how to love myself.

24.  Being there for the birth of my grandchildren. Not in the delivery room! But there afterwards to hold each of those tiny, precious babies as they entered into the world and our family.

25.  Being a mom. I’ve said it hundreds of times — being a mother is the most important job I’ve ever had. And our son, Landon, has made that job such a wonder and a joy. Was I a perfect mom? No. But I gave 100% of myself to the task. It’s easy to look back now and say I should have done this differently, or, I could have handled that better, but, in the moments that were, I believe I was doing my best.

26.  White water rafting. This was something I’d always wanted to do. So, a few years ago, myself and two friends embarked on a trip down the Kicking Horse River. It was the year before the huge floods in southern Alberta and run-off had been extremely heavy with water levels much greater than normal. Our trip was supposed to be category 3 rapids — they turned out to be mostly category 5. It was terrifying! But exhilarating and incredible. We saw some beautiful scenery — unfortunately we weren’t able to take any pictures. Hard to do when you’re clinging for life to the side of the raft!

27.  My first trip to New York. Tim surprised me for Christmas in 2004. We had taken a trip to Ontario to spend Christmas with my parents, which I hadn’t done for many, many years. New York was a fabled place to me at that time. Some magical city that I didn’t actually believe I’d ever get the chance to see. Well, Tim made it happen. We traveled by train from Niagara Falls, New York to Manhattan. We were in Times Square for the 100th anniversary of the dropping of the ball on New Year’s eve. I will never forget the magic of that trip.

28.  My mom teaching me to play cribbage. I was never much good at math — I struggled so much with it in school I felt like an idiot. My mother loves to play cards and whenever she had a few extra minutes you could find her playing solitaire or, if there was a friend visiting, cribbage or rummy. Crib intrigued me. What were these fifteen-twos and threes they were always counting? So, she sat me down one afternoon and taught me how to play. I have loved the game ever since. Really, I love playing any game (except Monopoly and Risk) and I attribute that love to my mother.

29.  Writing my first-ever short story in high school and having my English teacher tell me I had talent.

 

Zero to Sixty

This Friday –May 11th — I will turn sixty. I’ve been a little preoccupied with that fact for a while. For a whole bunch of reasons. Not the least of which is my own mortality. I think, like most people do, that I fear dying mostly because I fear I haven’t lived.

So that got me thinking some more: what has my life, to this point, been?

Have I danced? Have I lived with gratitude? Have I embraced every moment of the life I was given as if it were my last?

Yes. And, No.

In sixty years I’ve done a lot. To celebrate this personal milestone, rather than wish it weren’t happening, I’m going to create a list of sixty things, memories, accomplishments from my life.

Here goes.  In no particular order.

  1. When I was fourteen I attended my first real play. With two of my cousins — Deborah and Susie. Our Uncle Bing was a foot soldier for Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at the Shaw Theater in Niagara on the Lake.  Thus began my love of live theater.
  2. At sixteen I travelled by train from my home in Manitoba to NOTL to go live with my grandparents.
  3. My dad ‘teaching’ my sister and I how to do the dishes properly — at least once a month. He’d hear us bickering — which was on purpose — and come in to find out what the problem was. Then, he’d take over — “let me show you how this should be done”.  We’d just stand back and let him do our job. Thing is, the lesson stuck.
  4. Going for a ride in my boyfriend’s best friend’s Mustang. We would cruise up and down the streets listening to Aerosmith while our respective others were cheating together on us.
  5. Cruising down Portage Ave. with a different boyfriend listening to T-Rex sing Bang a Gong as loud as we possibly could.
  6. The first live concert I ever attended was BTO — fronted by Bob Seger. I will never forget him singing Turn the Page. BTO? Barely recall them.
  7. The first time I kissed a boy. His name was Charlie. We didn’t have a clue. But we learned!
  8. Roller skating with my aunt Val — who is only 9 months older than me. I would walk in to St. Catharines from NOTL to meet her and we’d go to the rollerdrome not far from my Aunt Sheryl’s house. I was never very good at it, but boy did we have fun.
  9. Falling in love with The Bay City Rollers and wearing everything plaid.

To be continued. . .

  1.  At eighteen, flying for the first time, by myself. I went to Calgary to visit my then boyfriend.
  2.  Having the courage to be rescued from an abusive relationship by three girls I did not know. One of them would become my best friend. We would live together for four years and attend each other’s weddings.
  3. Ate smelts. My grandfather — Grampa Jack — took me to the annual smelt fry in NOTL. They were delicious! I’ve never had them again, but it is a fond memory. Doing this small thing started me on a path of not being afraid to try new things.
  4. Meeting Tim Larson, a cute red-headed bus driver in Edmonton. He used to come in to the 7-11 where I worked nights and bug the hell out of me and my co-worker. I was his second choice for a date, but lucky for him, I said yes! LOL.
  5. Giving birth to a beautiful little red-headed boy. I had fantasized about a blonde haired baby, but when I saw that gleaming copper. . . Love was all she wrote.
  6. Finding out after years of feeling like a failure because I had not formally graduated high school, that I actually had — and that I had waaay more credits than I needed for a full diploma. When I think about that now, I just shake my head.
  7. Enrolling in University. Majoring in English Literature. I LOVED going to classes and only wish that I’d had the same determination to finish that I did to start. I keep telling myself that one day I will.
  8. Working as a Census Coordinator for Statistics Canada. It was a huge job, with tons of responsibility. I learned so much doing this job. It made me proud.
  9. Winning the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Prize in 1996 for my essay A Place to Call Home. It took a long time for me to realize how important this really was.
  10. Skydiving. My best friend, Sandi, talked me into it. I was scared to death, but I did it. We had about 4 hours of ‘jump school,’ then they took us up in a little twin engine plane and forced us out. Literally. BY OURSELVES. Another reckless adventure that I’m lucky to have survived. I’m glad I did it, but I would never recommend anyone do it the way we did. To this day I can still recall that feeling of being snapped upward when my chute opened.
  11. Having my first piece of writing published in a national magazine. And cashing the fat cheque that followed.
  12. Writing an essay on the motif of stairways in The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. It was my course final, and it was brilliant. If I say so myself.

I wanted to continue on the numbering from day to day, but for some reason WordPress does not allow that feature. So that brings the total of memories/accomplishments to 22 thus far. Until tomorrow. . .

A poem for today

I’m supposed to be working on a short story submission, but I got looking through my old poetry. I really like this one. Blackie was such a good dog. And I still miss her.

 

Blackie

©Kathy Larson

 

She was our first, and only, family dog.

We got her from the SPCA,

A little ball of black and tan fur.

Our son, for whom the puppy

Would be a companion and also

‘life lessons,’ named her:

Blackie Bear Rosa, a mouthful, for sure,

But he couldn’t settle on just one,

So we laughed and said why not?

Within days she became just ‘Blackie’;

It was the name her ears perked up to.

This puppy, who would eat with her

Back legs waving in the air made us laugh,

Made us glad to buy chew toys and treats

And special dog blankets and an old fashioned

Wind-up clock that we wrapped inside a baby

Blanket to keep her quiet and comforted at night.

While she was little she held our son’s attention,

But as with most ‘family’ pets, she soon became

Mine.

And I loved her, utterly and completely.

She was my companion on the days waiting

For the school bus to bring our boy back,

She took me on long, soul-searching walks,

Walked me out of depression, walked me out of

Walking out.

For fifteen years she was part of us and when

We had to take her in and put her to sleep

Part of me went with her.  I cried for weeks after.

Walking in the door expecting the pit-pat, pit pat

Of her coming to greet me, or waking in the night,

Sensing her still there, at the side of my bed,

Dropping my hand down to touch emptiness.

All that remained was a lighter spot on the carpet

Where her rug had lain for all those years.

In time, the pain lessened, but not the loss.

Now, I remember her as a dear friend,

Visit her in photo albums, and, on occasion,

When we’re all together, say, “Do you remember when. . .?”

 

Memories

Back in 2009 I took part in a poem a day challenge.  It was a lot of fun and a great writing exercise. I love poetry; though I don’t read nearly enough of it, and I write even less.

It’s a blah, mid-April day here in the Fort today.  For some reason this poem popped up in my memories.

pexels-photo-358160.jpeg

 

Water Tower, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Kathy Larson

©April 5, 2009

We’d see it as Dad rounded the corner on to John Street:
Unimaginably tall, bluer than the sky,
Thrillingly extra-terrestrial.
We’d all cheer and he would tell us to be quiet;
I’ll turn this damn car around right now, he’d growl,
And we’d hush, but we knew he wouldn’t.
Still, the threat was there. He was tired, who knew?
Mom, quiet beside him, readying to face her parents,
Another one of us added to her brood.
Us, squirming in the back on scratchy ‘Corinthian leather’,
Three days packed in mid-summer heat.
Endless games of “I-spy” and learning to hate Charlie Pride,
Conway Twitty and Connie Francis.
Always, someone would pee their pants,
Though they tried hard not to,
But Dad wouldn’t stop, and then, he would.
To late. We learned, over time,
To cover for one another,
Whispering: Watch for the water tower.
The promise of cousins, roasted corn and a trip to Pepe’s
Along magnolia-shaded streets could make us forget anything.
Tell us the story about Man’o’War again, Mom, we’d plead,
And she would, thrilling us all with a fearless girl-child vision of herself
Weaving between the legs of this mythical beast.
Grandpa, proud, terrified, calling her softly to him
As stable hands trembled, witnesses to the unbelievable.
He was a nice horse, she’d say, I knew he would never hurt me.
Then Dad would start in with his stories
Of the famous Indian braves, Falling Rock and Sharp Shoulders.
Along the way we’d get tales of the princesses Ida Know and Who-me.
Somehow, the miles melted away, ‘til, despite the fighting,
The stories, the laughter, the crying and the ‘claw’,
The water tower loomed before us
Promising sanctity,
Delivering us unto heaven.

 

Day 76 — It seems I’m falling behind

It seems I’m falling behind in my goals. But perception isn’t always accurate.

Despite the longer gaps in my blog posts I have been quite busy working on my goals. Purging is continuing in all its forms and I am feeling lighter, clearer and more in control every day. My daily walks continue and my body and mind are definitely the better for that.

I spent the first two weeks of March back in my home near Edmonton. The first week, I watched my grandchildren while their parents went on a holiday. I had a great time and it was the perfect way to start off a new month. I love great beginnings!

The second week involved taking care of business at home. Vehicle check-up, personal check-up — the joy of having to find a new doctor — sigh. Then there was chores at home — the house needed a good cleaning prior to company arriving. Window frames needed painting, a shower head needed fixing, and electrical switches needed replacing — thank you Landon!

During that second week I was struggling. Struggling with the enormity of repairs and maintenance our house needs, struggling with feelings of self-doubt, struggling with anxiety over all the things I cannot control. When I get like that it can be very difficult to remain positive and to see that there is a way out from all the dark thoughts, the overwhelming need to BE IN CONTROL. Lucky for me I had my grandpuppy Hades to walk every day and, later in the week, we were expecting company.

Walking Hades got me out into the fresh air and allowed me to escape my internal drama for an hour or so. And because I could turn it off for that little while it made returning to it easier to cope with. Slowly, I was able to tell myself that I was doing fine, that everything would be fine, that my house was fine — you get the idea.

By the time our company arrived — Tim’s brother and his wife — relatives we consider good friends, I was, not to be facetious, in control. My house was spotless. The dangerous electrical switches had been replaced, my vehicle was given the thumbs-up, the shower worked properly and my window frames were painted. I could relax. Kind of.

Because, of course, you want everything to be perfect when you have guests. Not that I needed to worry — our guests are incredibly easy to get along with and so much fun to be around that we always have a great time. Spending a few days with them got me to let go and just enjoy our time together.

Something that was said to me a long time ago when I was a girl of about 13 or 14 by a friend of my mother’s came back to me during that second week. I had been complaining  to her about how messy our house was and about how I hated always having to be cleaning up. Why, I remember asking this person, couldn’t my mother keep a clean house (sorry Mom) and how embarrassing it was to me when people came to visit. My Mom’s friend, whom I had been babysitting for, said: Kathy, people don’t come to visit your mother’s house; they come to visit your mother.

Since then, I have, of course, heard that same adage repeated in many different ways and forms. And I’ve always thought how true it was, while in the back of my mind a little voice whispered: yes, but not your house. Your house will be neat and tidy and people will come and visit and be SO IMPRESSED. 

Well, guess what. I finally realized the actual truth of those words. No one cared that I had spent two days dusting, washing and scrubbing — they cared that they were there. With us. Laughing, visiting and living.

When I think back to those days when I was that snotty, opinionated girl I see that our house was not dirty — it was messy — how could it not be with ten people, a dog and two cats living in it? But it was always (almost) filled with laughter and fun. Just about any day after school we could come home and find my Mom sitting at the kitchen table having coffee or, occasionally, a golden Cadillac or a grasshopper with one of her friends while they played crib or double solitaire. My brother’s and sister’s friends came and went like our house was their own. My parents made them all feel welcome and comfortable.

We didn’t have a lot, but what we had they weren’t ashamed of.

Why, oh, why does it take so long to learn these simple lessons?

Purge 9 of 100

Nothing physical purged today.  All mental and emotional.

I rid myself of these three things today: sadness, lethargy and malaise.

I’ll start with lethargy and malaise. It was -24, windy and snowing today. I could have easily chosen to stay inside and not go for my walk today. A couple of weeks ago I probably would have done just that.

But today I set a goal of leaving the apartment after 2 pm (that’s when the mail is delivered) and I didn’t hesitate once when it came time to go. I bundled up and away we (Dad and I) went.

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Sure, it was cold and the wind blowing in my face took my breath away once or twice, but honestly, it wasn’t bad. I talked to dad as I trudged through the drifting snow, glad I had him to keep me company. I walked up to the little shopping centre a few blocks from our building, completed my few errands and was home again by 3:30. A nice hot cup of tea and I was comfy, cozy and content.

Now for sadness. Despite feeling incrementally better these past couple of weeks I still find myself dealing with moments of incredible sadness. Writing this blog is helping with that, as are my daily walks and conversations with my father.

As I walked today I told dad that I wished I’d had it in me to talk to him the way I do now when he was alive. The wind was blowing really hard, so if he answered me, I didn’t hear him. Instead of feeling sad I actually felt a sense of joy.

There’s a story in our family of how my father once walked through a blizzard carrying my younger sister and I after his car got stuck in a snow drift. We lived out in the country and there was no traffic and no where for him to find shelter to wait out the storm. He knew we’d likely freeze if he didn’t get us home, so he bundled us up inside his big green army coat – one on his back, one in front and he set out in the direction of our home.

I wish I could remember that experience. I wish I could remember feeling his heart beating against mine as he struggled to get us to safety. I wish I could remember if he talked to us, told us stories to help us stay awake and calm. But, as with so much of my early life, I remember nothing. I know this story, and that he probably saved our lives only because my younger sister remembers and so did my dad and its been told numerous times.

I used to feel so sad because I couldn’t remember. And that there must be something wrong with me because I didn’t. Today, I felt that sadness and guilt lifted up and out of me on the blowing wind and swirling snow.

Thanks again dad.

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