Friday, December 26, 2008


It took a while, but I finally managed to upload some pics from my camera. Here's a wee visual glimpse of my life.....The photos are in no order whatsoever because that's how Blogger uploaded them.

The town I work in:

My puppy waits for his winter outing:

Girl with a broken leg:

My reward for shoveling all that snow:

My street in winter:

My attempt at a self-portrait after coaching from my teenage nieces:

Emily opening her favourite gift - a pink poodle webkinz:

Me on Christmas Eve with the re-decorated tree:

My kitchen. I love my kitchen. That's one thing I will be sad at leaving behind when I move:

The tree (before it looks much the same now):

Thursday, December 25, 2008

christmas weather timeline

December 23 7:00 pm: Snow. Megan's boyfriend shoveled the driveway.

9:00 pm: More snow. N came over to see Emily and shoveled again.

December 24, 7:00 am: Judging from what I see out the window, at least 30 cm (12 inches) of snow fell last night. You can't tell that anyone shoveled.

7:30 am: It's raining.

7:45 am: The snowplow drives down our street and dumps a ton of snow at the end of my driveway.

7:50 am: I leave for work and discover said snow. Heavy and wet, and at least 2 feet of snow to shovel out. Good thing I gave myself an hour to get there.

7:52 am: I realize I am about to do serious injury to my back.

7:53 am: Enter neighbour with shovel. Hallelujah!

8:45 am: I arrive at work to discover that the only kids there belong to the child care workers. Everyone else stayed home.

12:45 pm: A small shot (very small because I'm driving) of home made Bailey's. mmmmmmm....

1:30 pm: Home again. Roads are wet and flooding, as the huge snowbanks melt and more rain falls.

3:45 pm: I begin the drive to St. Marys. Rain and wet roads.

9:45 pm: Time to leave my parents' house. N drives the Focus and I drive my parents' vehicle, some kind of SUV, but dad assures me it has good winter tires.

9:46 pm: Gee, it's windy. Good thing the snow is wet and heavy. There are a few flurries.

9:52 pm: I hit highway 7. Snow is scudding across the road. The puddles on the edge are still wet, no ice. The flurries are coming down faster, but there's not enough accumulation to worry about. The wind rocks the car. Emily is looking for Santa out the window. She thinks she can see him.

9:58 pm: I can drive through Stratford, which is about a 15 minute time delay, or Ican take a back road to Kitchener, which runs through Tavistock. I never drive that way in bad weather, and it's a bit windy. If I take highway 7 through Stratford I run the risk of hitting unsalted ice and heavier traffic. I turn right.

10:00 pm: Cool. Lightning.

10:02 pm; Okay, it's snowing now. These are not flurries. And it's windy. I can see about 20 feet in front of me. I slow down. The wind batters the car. Swirling whiteness. Emily wants me to help her look for Santa and I tell her that I'm too busy trying to stay on the road.

10:10 pm: Good thing I know this road like the back of my hand. I know where the bad spots are. Where there are open areas, it is very difficult to see.

10:15 pm: "Emily, sweetie, can you sit very quietly for a few minutes? Mommy needs to concentrate on the road."

10:20 pm. Tavistock. Streetlights. Visibility. Sometimes on the other side of Tavistock the weather can take a dramatic turn for the better. My fingers are crossed.

10:25 pm: Leaving Tavistock. I hit my first whiteout about 1 km out of town. Seriously. I can't see in front of me at all. I can't find the yellow line. I am driving blind.

10:26 pm: Hazards on. I suspect that N is right behind me, but I'm not sure. At least the vehicle I'm driving has some height, which makes visibility easier. He's a good driver. he keeps his distance. There is no one in front of me - if I could see tail lights ahead, I would feel better somehow.

10:35 pm: I'm driving at about 20 km/hour (less than 10 mph). I am ready to pull over, but if I do, someone from behind might hit me. When I see oncoming traffic I simultaneously panic and rejoice. I'm still on the road, but oncoming headlights make it difficult to see. I really don't remember driving through conditions this bad before, and I've been driving back roads through snowstorms since I was 16. I'm talking out loud constantly at this point, trying to keep myself calm.

10:38 pm: I must be somewhere near Punkeydoodle's Corners. Dangerous, blind curve, and five point intersection. I can't see a thing. There have been a lot of fatal accidents at this location, and I don't want to be part of those stats. I call on whatever divine help I can muster. Gods, goddesses, angels....please help me get through this curve and home safely.

10:39 pm: The snow stops. Completely.

10:42 pm: I navigate the curve and make it to Highway 7.

10:43 pm: Icy and slow going, but I can see. Lots of Christmas Eve travelers who don't know how to drive in winter.

11:15 pm: My driveway. Sweet relief. My legs are like jelly, and my hands are still shaking. N has followed me all the way home, and gives me a thumbs-up as he carries on to his place. Emily is still awake, has been sitting like an angel for the last hour, and now wants to put her cookies and milk out for Santa.

It's Christmas, and I'm home safe. What more can I ask for? I feel blessed just to be alive and safe today, and I'm blessed with family, friends and people that aren't in my life yet, who I am about to meet...

ETA: One of my favourite writers, Jane Urquhart, once spoke about how writing was shaped by our landscape. For me, the landscape is not so much the cold as the snow that drifts across the road, the snow that sculpts itself into curves and crescents over the banks left by the plow. It's the whiteness, the swirling unknown that I walk or drive into. It's the wind above my head as it sighs through the trees. It's the solitude of a snowy walk through an uncharted cemetery near my house. And it's the warmth of home as I gaze out at the cold....and although I didn't mention it in my post, my Christmas Eve with my family was frenetic, wonderful, busy. I am driving back for more of the same this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

rambling right along

It's been awhile since I've been here. Oh well, 'tis the season, I suppose. Too much to do - baking, decorating (or in my case, re-decorating, at least the tree), braving the malls with teenager in wheelchair - you think navigating crowds are bad, try moving through the masses with a wheelchair bound kid who has an uncasted broken leg.

And I try to keep it simple. I'm not really a Christmas person - I'm more of a Yule person. December 21, winter solstice, is the part of the season that I really love. I celebrated Yule with my "sisters" (I have a coven, we are now eight in number), in a beautiful, quiet way last Saturday. Some pagans see Yuletide as a return to the light - we are heading into longer days, and many pagans recognize solstice as a time of rebirth and new beginnings. Perhaps it's because of the climate, but I (and my coven) view solstice in a slightly different light. Although the days are starting to get longer, it is still dark. And it's cold. We stay inside, we keep ourselves warm, we wait, like the earth, for the warmth of the spring to renew us. Underneath the blanket of snow, things are stirring, there is life, but that life is quiet, contemplative, dark. I call winter the dark time. And I love it. What I dream in winter comes to life in the spring.

We celebrate Christmas as well - my family is Catholic, and Christmas has always been a time for family, a time for celebration. So there is still a lot of running around, visiting, preparations to be made. We're traveling to my parents' on Christmas eve, to spend our time sharing gifts and food. We've celebrated this way since I was a child. The only difference is that now I don't go to mass on Christmas Eve - I used to, and I sang in our choir for many years. I love the carols still, but hate the sitting and standing, and the prayers, prayers that are contrary to what I believe now - such as "I confess to Almighty God, to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and what I have failed to do".....some things will be with me until I die, whether I want to remember them or not.

Once in a while, if I happen to be in church, I still make the sign of the cross. It bugs me because I have a problem with participating in an institution that is both misogynistic and homophobic, and so I stay away.

We have had a lot of snow this year, more than usual. Sometimes I just want to wrap myself up in a warm blanket and hibernate the winter away, dreaming, writing, curled up warm and comfortable while I watch the snow fall. But I love the snowflakes, the wind, the smooth curve of drifted, unblemished snow, walking at night under the streetlamps, alone. And don't let anyone tell you that miniature poodles are delicate creatures - my wee doggie loves the snow, loves to be taken for walks in places where he can run through snowdrifts and chase snow as the wind carries in in swirls around his head.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. And on Christmas morning I will have only one of my girls in the house - the oldest is spending Christmas Eve/morning with her boyfriend's family, and Emily will wake up with me, Her father will join us in the morning. My youngest will be driving with her dad to visit her other family, and I will be alone for a few hours on Christmas morning - after the gifts are unwrapped. It really doesn't bother me as much as I thought it might. I can relax a bit, drink some coffee, and gear up for another trip to St. Marys, with the older girl, for dinner. Stretches of time alone are not only bearable, but cherished, especially when a lot of life involves hurrying.

Something has shifted inside of me. Another shift, one of many that I have experienced this year. I'm contemplating life alone and I'm okay with it. For now. I'm not worried any more about how to earn a living because I'm proving to myself that I can make it financially without help, and without stress. I may have a new home in February, and the independence that will go with it - as long as I live in a house that we both share, I can never truly be independent, never shake his influence, and his subtle attempts to control. Or not-so subtle, as the case may be.

I'm growing more comfortable with my appearance - hey, when you used to weigh 300 pounds, weighing 170 is an adjustment, but it's a matter of recognizing my own face, feeling comfortable with the skin and body I was meant to have. I thought I would be curvy, and I'm not. I'm beginning to like it. My hair decided about three months ago that after 43 years of ambiguity, that it wants to be curly. I don't quite know what to do with it - I'm trying to grow it out to shoulder length, but it just keeps getting bigger instead of longer....

(I'm trying to get more comfortable with having my picture taken. It's just so damn hard to get used to.) Yule gift to myself was a shopping trip. I need new clothes, because the old ones are all too big. Not that the old ones looked so hot... as a shapeless person I used to choose shapeless clothing. Now I'm actually able to accentuate something. I bought something that makes me look amazing...and if I can remember to buy batteries for the camera tomorrow, I might even post a picture.

And moment of moments, on Sunday afternoon, I walked into a lingerie store and walked out with a bra. Seriously. A bra with a single-digit cup size. A bra that fits. A bra at all....I've never been able to do that. Most of them came from the department store, untried, unfitted, and whatever style came in my size.

Well, that was a bit of a ramble. I guess that's what happens when you try to cram a week's worth of thoughts into a single post.

If I'm not back here before Christmas, I hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

reflections on a small-town Christmas parade

Points to ponder:

- in small town parades, there are generally more people in the parade than there are parade watchers.

-most of the parade participants are children. Children in costume, local youth groups, children who just feel like being there, the local hockey heroes, and big kids who get to drive expensive cars sponsored by the local dealership. And if they're really lucky, the kids may get to ride in a snowplow, a fire truck, an enormous earth-mover or a bus. There are about seven actual floats-flkatbeds with people riding. The rest of the parade seems to be comprised of large, shiny, noisy vehicles. The trucks barely fit the width of the road I'm standing on.

-watching the rest of the parade after you've marched the entire route (okay, it's a small town, the route is not that big) is not conducive to warm feet or hands.

-everyone really does know everyone else. Except me, because I don't live there.

-it is really unwise to place families with small children between the fire truck and the nifty snow plow. In the dark. With sirens and horns wailing while small kids whimper and hold their ears

- you cannot sing Christmas carols while strategically placed between a fire truck and a snow plow

-somebody must get a thrill out of having trucks drive slowly past them, with no decorations, sounding their air horns every 30 feet or so, deafening the spectators as they trundle past. It's not me.

-Tractors and snowplows with Christmas lights. Oh my.

-It is also unwise to throw candy from a float in a night parade. This sends small children scurrying into the street, directly in the path of a transport truck or a snowplow.

-I must wear winter boots next time, not hikers with wool socks. Frozen feet do not improve my humour.

-A rural community and a parade with only one live animal - a dog pulling a small cart filled with stuffed animals. Not a horse in sight, in spite of the large Mennonite population.

- No music. No marching bands, bagpipes, baton twirlers. We're talking really small town here.

-Kids love it when you recognize them and shout their names as they ride past.

-Somebody must really like transport trucks....

-Those travel mugs that all the adults are carrying? They're not filled with coffee....

-if the firetruck in the lead cannot keep a good pace, child care workers and parents pulling wagons full of children end up running down the street for brief periods of time, in order to avoid being run over by the snow plow that is following them.

-if your child is in the middle of a group of children that she likes and feels like she's part of something big, she may ask (several times) why we can't move to that small town and live there. And saying "your dad wants to see you during the week" is not a satisfactory answer as far as she's concerned.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Yesterday did not start out well at all.

I had planned to create a post about our weekend - the kind of weekend I love. It snowed a lot, I shoveled the drive and walked the dog - my mini poodle loves snow, and snow storms. He chases blowing snow, and buries his head in snowdrifts just for fun. We have a neighbour with a doggy pal, and when we walk together, the dogs go nuts in the snow.

Later on Saturday afternoon Meg and her boyfriend and I went grocery shopping and picked out a tree.

In many ways my eldest has shown great maturity lately. But underneath it all, she's still sometimes the little girl I nurtured and loved. In Christmases past, when she picked the tree, she would manage to pick the most unsuitable tree possible. The one with the needles falling off, or the one with the great big gaps. The tree with two tops, or missing crucial limbs. We adjusted. Once they're decorated, you can't tell the difference anyways.

I paid for the tree, and I went to get the car, to bring it to the tree yard. Meg is still using a wheelchair to get around outside the house, so we needed to load wheelchair and tree in the back of an 06 Focus. Fortunately, the trees in the Zehr's lot were pretty small. I pulled the car up to the lot, and there they were, standing proudly with one of the biggest trees I'd ever seen. Tallest, anyways, and it was wrapped, so I couldn't gauge how big it was. It fit in the trunk, barely, with the trunk open, and we drove home slowly through a typical SW Ontario squall - big wet flakes and driving winds, with paranoid me thinking that the tree was going to fall out any minute.

Once we were home, we left the tree outside. Emily was with her dad until Sunday, and we weren't putting the tree up without her. The next morning, I looked outside and noticed that the tree had rolled across the porch and was covered in snow. I went outside to prop it up against the wall - I'd rather not have all that snow indoors, thanks.

I couldn't lift it.

Now I am not small, nor am I feeble. I occasionally lift my 5 year old, who weighs about 55 pounds. I've never had a problem lifting up a Christmas tree before. Even when N was around, I was the tree person - he does not have much affinity for Christmas at all. But this darn tree was so heavy that I could barely drag it across the porch.

Meg's boyfriend put the tree up while I was out walking the dog. It is huge - it's the kind of tree that belongs in a hotel lobby somewhere, or in someone's great big vestibule in their expansive suburban house. Not in the tiny corner that we have for a tree. But we managed to make it fit, even though we can barely fit through the living room doorway.

We had a wonderful afternoon. We decorated - Meg sat in my desk chair and rolled around the living room, putting up "her" ornaments, that her uncle has been buying for her since she was a baby. The tree looked very much like the tree in the commercial, where only the lower half of the tree was decorated, because neither one of the girls could reach the top of the tree. I pitched in a bit and moved a few things. But the poor tree, it looked rather - empty. I've never had that problem before. Megan has her own ornaments, and I've been a preschool teacher for 16 years. There are three kinds of gifts that are favoured for teachers, at least preschool teachers. Candles, chocolates and Christmas tree ornaments. I usually have more than enough to fill the tree.

But it was a beautiful tree, especially after the ribbons and garland went up.

We spent the rest of the afternoon baking cookies - gingersnaps and haystacks. Meg wheeled around in the desk chair,stirring and mixing, doing everything she could. Emily sugared the tops of the gingersnaps, sang a lot, and started to become her usual overexcited self around bedtime.

Monday was a typical Monday. Nobody wanted to get up.

Tuesday morning I was lying in bed. I'd turned the alarm off already, and it was about 5:45 am. I was doing a good job of pretending that I really didn't need to get up when I heard a sound. It was a slide and a gentle tinkle, like a sheet of ice sliding off the roof. I went to the bathroom and looked outside - no freezing rain, so no ice. What could it be?

I walked downstairs. Meg was sitting in the recliner, cats at play around her feet. And there was our glorious tree.

Lying in the middle of the floor.

Okay, I'm late for work, the tree's on the floor and I can't lift the damn thing up by myself. I tried, but I accidentally put the tree in Megan's lap, which did not please her. Emily was upstairs crying and telling us that the ornaments had to go right back on the same branches she put them, and I'm swearing and sweating, and not very happy at all. Damn cats! I thought, but Megan pointed out to me that the cats had been downstairs with her when the tree fell.

I had to leave the tree, and my crying child, because it was snowing hard and I needed to get to work. I fed them breakfast, and brushed all the snow off the car. I turned my key in the ignition, and turned on the windshield wipers, which went up, down, up, and then...stopped.

You can't drive without wipers in Ontario in December. Particularly when it's snowing heavily and the forecast is calling for freezing rain.

Back inside. I call my supervisor, and tell her I'll be in as soon as I can. When you work in preschool, you can't just take a day off- you need to be replaced.

Whew! At least I was able to go back inside and calm Emily down, and try to clean the tree up a bit. I also got to walk her to school, which I'm not able to do these days because of my work schedule. I took the car into the garage, and walked home. By the time I arrived home, the mechanic had called.

There is a small part in the wiper that needs to be replaced. A fifty-cent component. Ford will not sell the piece on it's own. Instead you have to buy and replace the entire wiper motor.

Total cost, including labour: about three hundred and fifty fucking dollars. Excuse my language but I'm still pissed off. And the part won't arrive until sometime the next day.

I got a day off, and after I de-stressed a bit, it wasn't too bad. my sister came to visit. I baked more cookies (my christmas cookies are rapidly disappearing from the freezer, almost as fast as I can make them. I must speak to Megan about that)

And I applied for membership here:

This housing co-op is about a 25 minute walk from where I live now. They have a three bedroom townhouse available for a nice, low rate. I've lived in a co-op before, and I like the principles of joint ownership, and joint responsibility. I could rent an apartment for the same amount of money or a little bit less, but I wouldn't get the same benefits;
-an on-site playground
-a community garden (important for me, my hands need dirt sometimes)
-fenced in yards
- a walking trail beside a creek, adjacent to the units
-a few blocks from uptown waterloo
-walking distance to groceries, and a really good school district
- a bit further from the old neighbourhood than is comfortable for walking, but I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

I'm going to arrange a viewing tonight. I walked around the outside on my way home from the garage and I really liked what I saw. It's exciting to find something that I like, something I can see myself comfortable with for the foreseeable future. I'm not really big on "owning" a house anyways. And co-op members are joint owners of the property. Good co-ops are amazing places to live, if you don't mind putting in the time and effort to benefit the community as a whole.

So my not-so-good day turned out to be not-so-bad after all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Yeah. Even more of them. Hopefully not tomorrow or next week, but they're happening all the same. Change is not necessarily bad, but it's...change. Something new to cope with. Another flurry of activity and angst before things settle into...what?

We've talked and talked. I've resisted, acquiesced and resisted again. I know, deep down, that I can't afford this house, that my better than average ECE salary is enough to rent a really nice place, but not enough for mortgage, plus taxes, plus the hefty utility bills that come with owning a barely-insulated 100 year old house. I can't keep up with cleaning a house that has four levels, from attic to basement. I love my eldest but she really needs to be renting her own place - when she's up and about. I could learn to sand and stain, install windows, caulk, replace flooring - I am capable, but I must do all this in my nonexistent spare time, in between working full time, parenting, and trying to live a life.

But I love my house. I love the creaky wood floors, and my amazing kitchen, with pull-out cupboards and lots of counter space. I love my main-floor laundry room, the big window in front that looks out onto the street. I love the old-fashioned front porch, and the tiny walled-in back yard.

I love my gardens. I put a lot of work into my garden, and I don't know what I'll do if I can't stick my hands in dirt once in a while.

I need to let go. It's too much for me to handle. But it's so hard.....this has been my home for four years, I've put down so many roots, and when I transplant, all those little connections will be lost, or pulled out painfully. It will take time for the dirt to settle, for me to feel at home in new surroundings.

Our finances are still tied together, and will be for the next few months to come. But he's offered to buy me out - take over the house, while we split the equity. That would (hopefully) put some money in my pocket, and even if that amount is small, I will be debt-free, and fully independent. I need this. I need to make my own decisions, I need the freedom of living only for myself and my kids.

The ideal plan is for me to find something in the neighbourhood - so that we can both be close to Em and her school. There are lots of lovely old duplexed houses around here, but there are things I need. Ground floor access. A yard for the dog and for Em. Enough space so that she can play and live comfortably. Storage. Laundry. Trees. Perhaps a bit of earth to dig in - or closer proximity to the nearest community garden.

Em gets to have a place to live with both parents. Right now she lives with me and visits her dad - occasional overnights, but his living situation doesn't allow for more than that. I'm still the primary, but she needs her own room in his home, she needs her own space. But I worry about the effects of another change on her - she has gone through so many changes lately, and another one would be hard. Change is always hard for her - I am starting to recognize that she has some special needs, and she needs lots of love, encouragement and support. More about that in another post.

There will be compensations. Maybe I can take a real vacation. I'll have more time (hello notebook - pen -ambitions). I have lots of warning, so I'll be able to find the home that I want. I won't be rushing around at the last minute and taking whatever I can find.

But it's hard. Saying goodbye all over again. Does it ever stop?

(I'll post pictures when I get home from work)

Monday, December 1, 2008

we don't discuss that

It's almost December. I've missed a self-imposed deadline by about two months now.

I was determined, way back in early September, to come out to the rest of my family as soon as possible, by Thanksgiving (Mid-October here) because I wanted to move forward, keep going with my new life, make sure that everyone important to me had a chance to know who I really am. It didn't happen that way.

And on the heels of another needless argument with N over nothing in particular, where he made perfect rational sense and I became angry and defensive yet again, I started to wonder - why? Why can't I tell my brothers, their wives, their families that I am queer. What's holding me back? I barely slept last night - there's a virus setting in, and I am just overwhelmed with worry and fear. How will they react? What happens if they reject me, because they might. More likely, it will become, as it seems to have already, the next family secret. The thing we don't talk about.

N spent a lot of time reassuring me in September - our parents love us unconditionally. They will accept me for who I am, they will understand and support me. And when I drove down to see them, to tell them about myself, I did it when I was raging over something else, when I had no support, no one to talk to, nobody around me who could give me the comfort that I badly needed. For goddess' sake, my relationship was over, I was grieving, he obviously wasn't because he just sailed into something else like I didn't matter, like I'd never mattered. At least, that was my mindset at the time.

What I had hoped for in coming out to my parents never materialized. They didn't disown me or anything - I'm still family, family sticks together, don't you know, and there I am, cooking thanksgiving dinner, making birthday supper for Meg's family party, hovering in the background with this big thing to say, and no courage to say it. I silenced myself, again, I am waiting for this big opportunity to come, and it never will, unless I create it. And how do I do that?

My parents said it didn't matter. But they act like it does. Do they ask me how I am, how things are going for me? No. When I told them that I was grieving, they said to me "well you can't really blame him for moving on." Like there was someone to blame, and the someone to blame was me. I wasn't throwing blame around at the time, just carrying a lot of shame and guilt for having wreaked so much havoc in so many lives. On bad days I still do.

They told me that they wouldn't tell anyone else. That it was up to me to come out, in my own time, in my own way. But they added a caveat - that I should let my siblings tell their children - or not - as they see fit. Which means, that I structure my revelation in a way that does not include the kids, even though my older nephews and nieces at 21, 16, and 14, are well able to understand what I'm talking about.

There is something to hide. There is something to be embarrassed about. There's something wrong with me. That's the message I got when I came out to them, the message that I internalized and carried with me, giving it no conscious thought until yesterday, when I was trying to explain that I didn't have time to come out - why? Because when do I ever see my brothers without their kids unless the occasion is completely contrived? So do I feed them dinner and make a big announcement? Do I drive an hour to my hometown in the dead of night to tell them when their teenage children are asleep, giving them the opportunity to lie or conceal the truth from their almost grown-up kids? Do I become the pariah, the person tolerated but not accepted because my being flies in the face of the 'traditional" values they espouse?

My mother told me that I could have come out to her when I was 21 and it would have been okay. I told her that I didn't believe her. It's not okay now, it's so not okay that I have not had a conversation with them about my sexuality since that day. And it's so important to me right now - it's what i spend a lot of my time thinking about, mulling over. Every major decision and change I've made in the last three months has been a direct result of being queer and acknowledging it to myself. So why can't I talk about it, given that it's such a huge part of my life right now, and always will be?

I feel like I'm standing at the foot of this giant mountain, with all my gear, ready to climb, and there's no one to spot me. I can't do this alone. How do I do this at all?