Tag Archives: the neighbourhood


Since mid-October when I started a work assignment in Surrey, I’ve been walking to and from the skytrain station every day. It started because the bus schedule either got me to work too early or too late, and because October and early November were so sunny and crisp it seemed silly not to walk around in them. It was flip-a-jaunty-scarf-over-your-shoulder-and-wear-leather-boots weather. It was only-one-tissue-required weather. I felt so virtuous.

The mornings turned me into a walking evangelist, because what is more lovely than starting the day strolling briskly through your neighbourhood park, then the streets you’ve been walking for thirteen years, sometimes pushing a stroller, sometimes training for a half marathon, a neighbourhood full of old houses with wrap-around porches and stained glass windows. In October there was a civic election and I felt connected to my community in a way I hadn’t in a long time, walking from one side of New Westminster to the other, seeing clusters of lawn signs and thinking fondly of the people who lived behind those lawns, in all those civically engaged houses.

In the mornings Saint Aardvark and I often walk together (he’s the one who’s been walking to the train for years while I took the bus like a sucker) and it’s motivational and pleasant to take a walk with someone you like every morning. Some days he works from home and then it is just as pleasant to walk alone while listening to Metric or Sylvan Esso or the Electric Light Orchestra or Courtney Love.

In the morning I love the chittering birds bouncing from tree to tree, the crows tearing up lawns, the occasional peppy fur ball dog, tongue flapping in the breeze. I love the way the light – when it comes – sometimes comes from all directions, washing over us like someone tipped the jar where they’ve been rinsing paintbrushes. I love when it starts as a tear in the thick clouds, growing bigger and bigger until we’re waiting for the light to change under a bright, blue sky.

When the Rains came, it got harder, but I do have the brightest, orangest rain boots in the world, and an umbrella with cats on it, and let’s face it, the bus is no treat in the rain either. Soon enough people decorated their homes for the holidays and there were twinkling lights and wreaths and full colour blinkyphernalia and like a runway leading an airplane, those blocks all led me home.

Yes, walking to the train station in the morning is easy, but I never intended to walk home every day too. It’s uphill in a special, hill-city way. It’s a hill that iPhone health says is equivalent to 24-29 flights of stairs. One day in my first week, I came out of the train station and my butt cheeks were still sore from the day before, so I waited for the bus that comes every half hour and goes right past my house. It was ten minutes late and full of people and I had to stand at the back holding on to the ceiling with the palm of my hand. An infant cried quietly from its stroller. It’s one of those wee buses that feels like a mini van strapped to a few skateboards and I just didn’t want to tax it. I didn’t want to be the straw that broke that camel. I never took it again.

So even on a day like today, with the rain sheeting and my uterus having its own winter storm, I popped up my umbrella and hung a left for home. I love that the lights are on in the houses I pass and the blinds are open, that kids are sitting at tables doing crafts or reading – and I recognize some of them – and there are dogs on couches staring out the window at me — and I recognize some of them too. There is security in knowing whose house you could knock on if you had to pee or started to feel faint. I love seeing the light of a kitchen at the back of a house through the living room window. I love people pulling into their driveways and slamming the doors of their vehicles. Home, the car doors say. Home.

My home stretch takes me down the path to the bottom of Queens Park. The cars strung out along McBride, ruby lights lined up and waiting. I’m glad I’m not them, every day.

Go Team!

Interest in organized sports waxes and wanes at our house. Luckily no one is serious about being a hockey player. Arlo thinks he might grow up to play in the NBA. Eli claims his favourite sport is golf. This may well be true. It’s hard to tell with Eli.

Back in the winter, Arlo asked to play spring soccer. It should be noted that spring soccer is different from regular season soccer, in that our west coast regular season is from September to March. Six weeks to get you used to being on an field, another six where you freeze your ass off in the rain & snow, six more to build fortitude. We WILL make it to March. We WILL get the medal.

Both kids played soccer in kindergarten. Both kids opted not to play again in grade one. But lots of Arlo’s classmates play soccer at lunchtime so he expressed an interest. Spring soccer is less intense, in that there are no games, only a weekly practice/scrimmage. My hope is he’ll refresh his actual soccer skills (different from the schoolyard gravel pit skills I suspect) and decide if he wants to do regular season in September. This past year he played basketball from September to March and boy did I like that. Uh, he did too. But basketball is a very parent-friendly sport. One hour, once a week, played inside. They run a lot and jump and learn skills. And then you get on with your weekend. No thawing your frozen fingers and toes by the fireplace. No practices on weekday evenings to be worked around dinner and two working parents’ schedules. None of that. Basketball. ALL THE WAY WITH BASKETBALL.

Last year Eli said he wanted to play baseball. Baseball season had already started, that’s how he knew he wanted to play; his friends were playing, and he kept seeing people playing baseball and it looked like the best thing ever. The grass is always greener. Because it had already started I didn’t want to sign him up, besides, soccer had just ended. So we put it off to this year. This year he is a Rookie in Little League. There are two games per week and one practice. They’ve scheduled extra practices for this week and we’ve attended two in two days. Well, I didn’t. I stayed home. Thank god, because yesterday it was gale-force-windy and then started raining, and today there was hail and more rain. So we’re back to thawing fingers and toes by the fire. The uniform is adorable, though. Little baseball cap. Little jersey. Eli is number 8.

People take their baseball seriously. There is an opening ceremony. There are organizers. I think I have a volunteer job but I’ll have to have someone remind me what it is. Field prepper, I think? The next few months with two evenings a week eaten up by sportsball, one of those evenings with two children doing different sportsball in two different locations at the same time, well, it’ll make or break me, I’m thinking.

And then everyone gets signed up for more basketball. NBA or bust.

Whimsical Adulthood

Woke up and wrote for an hour. Working on a story. For maybe the second time in my life, I have started with a title and have written five pages of story five different ways and none of it seems to be the right fit for the title. Titles are tyranny!

Closed the notebook and decided I need to be more whimsical.

Woodbridge Meadow Whimsy - geograph.org.uk - 934787

Took the kids to school. Discussed briefly with neighbour kid’s dad how neighbour kid going to daycare during his formative years means he is used to walking blindly out into streets without first looking both ways because he was always with a pack. I had not considered this as a cause for neighbour kid’s inability to cross the street nor as a possible detrimental side effect of daycare. Still not sure it’s a real cause & effect situation. Neighbour kid also takes forty minutes to walk three blocks.

Came home. Was entertained by various municipal election articles and websites. If a candidate uses too many exclamation marks and capital letters, they both please and sadden me. I like to watch kooky people unfold in the world, but I also am sad they have no one to tell them to just use one exclamation mark. And to make their platform more elaborate than just “bring SMILES to the PEOPLE.”

Wade whimsies 4o06” by Snowmanradio at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Innotata using CommonsHelper.(Original text : Own work). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Went to the mall to return some pants. Tried on running shoes and nearly bought a pair but couldn’t commit. After I bought the pair in the spring that ended up hurting my feet but it was too late to take them back, and buying the two pairs I used to train for the race, but which are worn out, I am shoe-shy. I don’t want to buy the wrong shoe. I really want two more pairs of the kind that are worn out but they’re done now. Done. Bought some tights instead, and a new Sport Bra because those are easy. No they are. I’m flat chested.

Right! Whimsical! Was starving so I went to the food court at the mall and walked around until I found something that cost less than $5.25, which was all I had in cash. Ended up eating a breakfast combo at Tim Hortons. The hashbrown was hard as a rock. The sandwich was chilly. The tea was hot.

While I was waiting for my food, a woman walked past me and said, “I like your hairdo.” I thanked her.

To be more whimsical I sat on the opposite side of the food court, by the windows, in one of the red pleather seats. A collection of old men in sensible shoes and old man hats played cards at a round table. Next to them, a collection of old women ate noodles and chattered. I ate my bad food and sipped my tea and started a sixth version of the story whose title I am trying to do justice. (TYRANNY)


Curious Figure part2 Tom Otterness Beelden aan Zee Den Haag” by BrbblOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Home to get Saint Aardvark so we could go vote. The municipal election is ten days away but on that day we will be in Seattle having a very small vacation so we voted today. Everyone at the voting place was very friendly and helpful. The woman voting next to me mentioned that neither of the pens worked, then the whatever-you-call-him-guy-who-works-there (invigilator?) asked her if she’d taken the cap off the pen and she said no.

I got a sticker and put it on my notebook, and SA did the same with his sticker on his notebook. We’re so alike.

Up the street we wandered to the grocery store where I’d heard we could get flu shots at the pharmacy. As we don’t have convenient family docotrs, every year we get our flu shots somewhere new. Two years ago I got mine at Safeway and it hurt like a sonofabitch. Last year I went to London Drugs and it was marvelous, I barely felt a thing. I swore I would never go anywhere else for a flu shot and yet, here I was at Save On Foods, with a small, rushed pharmacist who made the smallest pretence at assessing how I was doing before jabbing that needle into my poor muscle so hard I nearly kicked him in the face.

I thought at first that I just had much bigger muscles than last year, but SA claimed his also hurt like whoa so next year, for real, no grocery store pharmacist flu shots. N.O.

After the flu shot, it was time for the notary! The first notary we went to was..not in the office. He is the only notary who works in the office, it is named after him, yet his office was open and his receptionist was there to tell people he wasn’t there, at his office, so that was confusing, but she gave us a list of other notaries in Uptown New Westminster and there were a number of them. In fact one could do a comparison of notaries to hair cuttery establishments in New Westminster and it would probably come up even I think. So we found another notary right across the street and went to see him.

We needed him to notarize the letter that authorizes me to take the children across the border next week because SA won’t be with me because he’ll already BE in Seattle you see and maybe this is overkill but the kids have different last names and I remember once my Peruvian co-worker trying to take her kids on vacation to Peru without her husband and she nearly missed the plane because she didn’t have a letter from her partner saying it was OK to take the three kids to Peru.

I had forgotten we’d explained all this to the kids the other day so I was surprised when I mentioned the notary to Eli on our walk home from school and he said, “Oh to sign the letter proving you’re not a kidnapper, right?” Right.

Then back to school to get the kids, then home, then back out to get Arlo from his friend’s house, then home, then dinner and perusing the Toys R Us Christmas catalogue where I made the children spit out their dinner with laughter as I pointed to the doll called Baby All Gone and said, “Oh that’s the toy where you bring it home and then it disappears!”

Eli made me laugh when he saw the Disney Princess Lego castle and said, “Really? Now, Lego you’ve gone too far.”

Whimsy to close out the day.


The Sky is Falling

Two days ago I was in my kitchen and saw my neighbour through my window. She was standing on the sidewalk, staring up at the second floor of my house.

I went outside with my container of blueberries because we cannot be parted. Blueberry season is on, friends, and they are my favourite, my true love, my most sweet companion.

“Everything ok?” I asked my neighbour. She is a nice woman maybe ten years older than me. We chat a lot. She is funny and low-key and has never complained about my children, even has lied to me for years about not hearing them. Seriously. You are not hearing impaired, how could you not hear them, what a nice thing to say.

“I found something weird today..” she started, moving toward her house.

We live in townhouses, so her house is separated from mine by a cedar hedge and courtesy. I followed her around the hedge to her house, where she picked up a piece of wood, a two-by-four, painted the grey colour of our houses, with a metal grate attached to it by one screw.

“What is that?” I said.

“I found it on the hedge between our houses,” she said. “It must have fallen off the roof. But I don’t know from where…”

We both commenced looking up at the second floors of our townhouses, wondering what the hell.

I saw a place on my wall that I remembered not being bare before. I shielded my eyes.

“Oh, from there,” I said. I pointed. It looked like a double exhaust pipe on a muscle car, but pointing out of the wall of my house.

“Is that..your dryer vent?” she said.

I shrugged. Maybe?

Yes, as it turns out. The cover for our dryer vent just dropped off the house the other day, luckily landing in a hedge and not on either of our patios or on our heads. As Eli would say, “Now THAT would be a concussion!”

This evening a representative of strata came over and rapped on my screen door. She interrupted my solo viewing of Tiny Furniture (a fantastic movie if you want to experience life as a 22 year old) and consuming of chili and rice and chips because that’s how I roll when I’m alone (oh yeah, family is gone tonight to camp out in a park and look at the meteor shower).

“Hi…” she called to me.

“Hi…” I answered, shoving a chip in my mouth and forgetting to pause the movie, which is OK because I have been 22 so I know what happened in the ten minutes I was away from it. (angst, angst, more angst)

“Are you the one whose dryer vent cover fell off?” she said.

“Yes,” I said and brandished the now-somewhat-famous piece of wood caked with dryer lint and bits of my old hair, attached precariously with one screw to its metal grill.

“Hmm,” she said, staring at it, moving it from one hand to the other. “Hmmm. What was it attached to?”

“The wall,” I said.

“Yes but..” and she pointed out that there was no hole in the wood indicating that the wood and grill were ever attached to the wall. Yet, there are two exposed vents pointing out of the wall, and a piece of wood attached to metal on the ground, so let us do the math.

“We have someone coming in September..” she said, looking dubious.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s wasp season.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Someone else down the row actually had the same thing happen recently. But not the wood, just the grate fell off.”

I felt some relief. It wasn’t that my house was defective. It’s that all the houses were built twelve years ago and the person who built them used super glue that takes exactly twelve years to wear off. One by one, the grates will drop off on peoples’ hedges, onto their patios, concussing their children and cats.

The other day when my neighbour and I were discussing the exposed dryer exhaust, she said, “You don’t want to wait to fix that. Critters will nest in there. Squirrels..”

My neighbour had squirrels in her place a few years ago, and raccoons eating her herb garden. She is bitter about critters.

“Well,” I said. “I’ll just leave the dryer on all the time. I’ll cook them.”
“Free dinners” she said.

It’s not what I want, though. I don’t want things living in my dryer exhaust pipes. I don’t want great exposed holes in my wall. I don’t want to eat squirrel.

The strata representative went away and handed me back my piece of linty, hairy, broken wood with the one screw attaching a metal grate.

“Someone will be in touch,” she said. She was shaking her head as she walked away.

“Thanks…” I called after her.

I came back inside and finished watching my movie and eating my dinner. I’m sure it will all work out.

August 1

Today was my final day off without children until school starts sometime in the fall. It is now four-ish PM. At five I will go across the street to pick up the kids, who have been enjoying a water and sun-soaked day at the daycare. I saw them earlier, as I snuck home from my hair appointment, they were frolicking in the grass, shirts off, while one of the daycare workers sprayed a hose in the air.

Yes, it is hot here. Super hot. So hot. I am not complaining because it is beautiful to feel the sun on your skin and the ache of the burn on the backs of your knees where the sunscreen sweated off and the trickle of sweat that starts in the middle of your head and slowly makes its way under your t-shirt, through your bra and all the way down to your butt crack, where it meets a friend and they conspire to make you look like you peed in your pants, giggling all the while the way sweat does.

Whoops, got away from myself there.

One of the things I’ve been doing this summer is running. I am doing this half-marathon training which makes me go running four times a week, roughly double my previous running time/distance/etc. There is no wimping out because there is a group and I am a people pleaser.

Actually I go even without the group. The running is wonderful. I love it. I am happier on the days I run than I am on the days I do not run.

Also, there have been consequences.

Consequence 1: I am faster and have better stamina!
Consequence 2: New calf muscles, I am getting those.
Consequence 3: I am always sweating. All the time. Always. I start sweating when I put on my clothes, I sweat some more when I run and then I sweat for an hour afterwards and then it’s thirty degrees celsius in my house so I sweat until the next day, while applying ice packs to my various pulse points. Sweat sweat sweaty McSweatserson.

You know what is bullshit when you are hot and sweaty and exercising a lot? ANYTHING EXTRA TO CARRY AROUND. My shorts are lightweight. My tank top is made of wicking whatever. My shoes weigh an ounce or something. The heaviest thing I am carrying is my FUCKING LONG ASS HAIR. (actually it might be my feet, but.)

Oh hi I am super happy about how I look and feel right now, can you tell?

Oh hi I am super happy about how I look and feel right now, can you tell?

So today I got it cut. Ahhhhhhhh haircut. Major, huge haircut. The kind of haircut where you run it under a tap and then shake it and get on with your life. I am a happy happy person. I was going to cut it all, shave it up the back and leave a little poof ball on top like a demented giant poodle, but my lovely hair stylist convinced me to leave it a little wild around the top because my hair likes to be wild. Fine. Okay.

HEY now I am jaunty and smiling!

HEY now I am jaunty and smiling!

I also bought one of those belts with the water bottles to put around my waist for the longer runs. We are currently a third of the way through the half-marathon training and summer shows no signs of stopping in its tracks and raining on me so I require a hydration solution.

Top tip: water belts can be purchased at a discount at Winners. I saw these FuelBelts at … oh somewhere, for $50 and at Winners they were $25. (but they were in the MEN’s department. Don’t stop looking if you don’t see them in the women’s department.) Second top tip: you can get decent quality exercise clothing — technical stuff — at Value Village. Sniff before you buy, wash in hot, and then proceed to soak it with your sweaty sweat and make it your own.

Budget conscious running tips from a 40 year old woman who sweats a lot. There must be a market for this. Yeah. Well, happy August, anyway! Here is a picture of Eli picking raspberries and making his best ham-like face.


And, because if Arlo was reading this (and he will be, someday) he would say, “Why isn’t there a picture of ME?” I add a picture of Arlo looking like a very short seventeen year old. There. It’s fair. *wipes brow*



A note on Summer Writing Club: if you are joining and you want stickers, email me torturedpotato@gmail.com (or dm on twitter @torturedpotato) your address and I will send you incentivizing stickers IN THE MAIL to put on your calendar for every week you complete.

Also, my 15 minutes a day will not necessarily be here on the blog, I just seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment. I COMMIT TO NOTHING I REMEMBER LAST YEAR.


This afternoon I once again took the kids across the street to the middle school to practise their scooter skills. Yesterday I was looking after an additional child so I felt like I should pay attention, but today it was just my two. I brought my notebook because watching children scooter is only interesting the first four times. Yay you popped a wheelie, yay you squatted down real low and scraped your toes on the cement, yay kids yay.

After I’d written roughly one paragraph in my notebook, I noticed the scooter noise had stopped and I had their full attention. (It’s good to know this is a way to get the full attention of children.)

“What are you writing?” Eli said. “I know, a story,” he added, “but what’s it about?”

He does this a lot, answers his own questions in a rush to have the right answer.


“Actually,” I said, “it’s not a story. It’s just some thoughts about strawberries.”

“What about them?”

“About how they smell so much like strawberries,” I said. “And how I wonder if there are people who don’t know what real, fresh strawberries in season smell like, if they only know about the artificial strawberry smell, like, um,…”

“..Strawberry Shortcake dolls…” Arlo suggested.

I make them sniff my Strawberry Shortcake doll every time it turns up in the toybox at my parents’ house, and each time, I marvel this has smelled vaguely like strawberry scent for THIRTY YEARS you guys.


“…or erasers?” Arlo said.


“Yes. Maybe there are older people who only know what real strawberries smell like, because Strawberry Shortcake dolls aren’t something they’ve ever seen. And maybe there are lots of younger people who compare the smell of real strawberries to strawberry candy and to them, the strawberries smell wrong.”

“I like candy,” Eli said. “Can you read me some of your writing?”

“No,” I said. “It’s not really ready to read out loud. It’s kind of like a journal.”

“OK,” he said, then, “hey watch this,” and scootered away.


April 1

Yesterday I had this conversation with a crow outside my window.

Me: Yeah I get you. It’s nesting season. That cat is down there. Your lady friend is trying to build a nest over in that tree. I see her. I think she might have some of my hair in her beak, from the dryer vent…
Crow: *fixes his eyes on me through the window*
Me: You know, the day we moved into this place, I was as mad and stressed out as you are right now.
Me: I’ll cut you off there. I know it’s worse to be a crow; after all, you’re a bird. Smart bird, but still a bird. Your choices for shelter are not as varied as mine. I went from an apartment to a townhouse; yes, it was stressful but not as stressful as building a nest out of threads in a tree —
Crow: CAW
Me: Right. But in HUMAN terms. In human terms, we’d just bought our first place. I was six months pregnant with our first child. We moved to a new city entirely. It would be like if you…moved to the middle of downtown Vancouver and tried to find a tree there–
Me: Exactly. You can’t even. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Everything was an omen. We bought the place on my birthday. That was good. Our movers were flakes and we had to fire them a week before the move. That was bad. When we arrived to move in, the previous occupant was still here…
Crow: CAW?
Me: Seriously.
Me: I know. That’s what I said, but, you know, in English. It didn’t look good for a few hours there. It looked very bad. I didn’t think this was the right place to make a nest at all.
Crow: CAW
Me: Well there was another tree outside our window at the time. There have always been trees…
Me: Anyway. It turned out OK. See? I’m here. The kids are at school. The sun is shining. That cat is too stupid to get you.
Crow: CAW
Me: I know, you have to crow anyway. But — it’s going to be okay.


Eight years ago today, we moved into the townhouse where we still live. The walls are no longer as white as they were. They are peeling in places and scribbled on in others. The floors are a perpetual swirl of tiny elastic bands, the heads of LEGO minifigures, hair, toast crumbs, and good old human dust. Our little porch is a nice place to sit and drink coffee on a chilly spring morning. We know our neighbours and our neighbour’s pets, and the birds we see on the walk to school.

I mentioned the anniversary to the children as we walked from school to trampoline class at the nearby park/arena and Eli said, “Wow! Let’s celebrate with cake!”

(I might need to start a cake company so that can be the slogan.)

I do so love our nest. Caw.

Dog Friday

I had the day off today. I also had Monday and Wednesday off but somehow having Friday off makes things more festive. When I got up this morning, the sun was rising SUN! SUN! and SA walked the kids to school because he always does that on Fridays and I stayed in my pjs five more minutes before going for a great run. In the sun.

Today is the sun after all the rain. It hasn’t really been raining. This has been a metaphor.

Anyway, as they were leaving for school, I pointed out to Eli that his stuffed dog, Shortbread, was on the kitchen floor, having been removed from the school backpack. Shortbread goes back and forth to school a lot. He stayed there for a week, in the Pet Hospital in kindergarten, but he seems to be fine now.

“Is Shortbread going to school?” I asked. “Or is he staying home with me.”
Eli thought about it.
“With you,” he said. “You can take care of him. And Black Eyed* too.”
“OK,” I said.
“Don’t forget to feed them,” Eli said, glaring at me.
“And what about when they have to poop?” I asked.
“They don’t..do that,” he said.


The first thing I did was take a picture of the dogs and me. Because the camera was right there. Aren’t they just the cutest?


*Black Eyed might actually be called “Mini No Name**” but I don’t remember exactly.
** because Eli has a stuffed BEAR called No Name, you see.

Then it was time for me to go for a run. I debated taking the dogs but decided I didn’t want the weight. So I kissed them goodbye. I figured they’d be okay for an hour.


Wooooeeee it was a good run. I am slowly building up stamina to a 40 minute run. Today I ran more than walked, and that is better than Wednesday. The streets were not too icy and my lungs quickly got used to the cold air. My hands warmed up at exactly fourteen minutes in. Weird.


The dogs were glad to see me. This is my pink running shirt that was five dollars in the bargain bin. My joke to the neighbours I see when I come home from running is, I run until my face matches my shirt, and then I’m done.

I had a shower, but the dogs stayed downstairs. Then I had a snack. They didn’t want any. I needed a bit of food because the next thing we did was GO TO COSTCO!


Well, first we checked our storage room to see if we needed coffee. We did.


They had never been to Costco so they weren’t that excited, but they were happy to be in the car. They like the car.


Shortbread fell asleep in the car, just like Eli always does, but Black Eyed stayed awake the whole time and seemed to enjoy the music on the radio.


Costco was busy, no duh. Friday afternoon. I parked far away and hiked in.

Yeah, I had a list, but we also had to look at other stuff, like the kid-sized recliner


and the Kobo.


The dogs really liked riding in my purse in the cart, and I think I liked it too because being without children but with stuffed animals makes you Kind of Crazy. Throw in the fact that you’re photographing the animals, and people get out of your way at Costco. Just the way I like it.


After some dithering, the dogs got bored and started to act up so I knew it was time to leave.



Last stop was at Safeway and the liquor store, because it’s Friday! Friday at the Safeway/liquor store parking lot is almost as crazy as Costco, so we parked far away again. Exercise is good for you! It’s a sunny day!


At Safeway I bought milk and bananas. At the self-checkout, the clerk came over and said,

“You’ve got a dog in your purse.”
“I have two!” I said, and dug out Black Eyed.
“Oh that’s so cute,” she said.

She did not seem to think it was odd, which was odd.

“They’re my son’s,” I said. “When he left for school he asked me to watch them..”
“So cute!” she said again. “My husband still has his stuffed bear from when he was a kid. And I still have my stuffed Santa.”
“Wow,” I said.
“The Santa was the only thing I saved from a house fire when I was two,” she said. “Everyone but my brother survived. He was two years older than me. But my parents and my seven brothers and sisters survived. And the Santa.”
“Wow,” I said again. I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“My husband bought me a big Santa just like the little one, she said. So I have an old one and a new one.”

It’s great, the things people will tell you.

We went on to the liquor store.


Black Eyed allowed as how he has seen me drink a lot of Fat Tug and maybe I should buy some. I had my usual debate over nice, hoppy beer? or nice full red wine? Decided on beer.

The man ahead of me at the liquor store told the cashier and me a story about hitch-hiking through Alberta when he was fifteen, hair down to his butt, old ladies throwing eggs at him from car windows and yelling at him to get out of their town, because he was a dirty hippy.

I liked the story because of him, the young hippy, and because of the awesome old ladies throwing eggs, however misguided they might or might not have been.

He and I walked to the parking lot together. He said, “It’s like Willie Nelson said, ‘if I’d known I’d live so long, I’d’a taken better care of myself.'”

I laughed.

“Now, where’s my car,” he said. “That’s the problem with being an old hippy, you can’t remember where your car is…”
“I can’t help you with that,” I said.
“Have a good weekend,” he said.
“You too.”

Happy to be home, the dogs fell on the Costco-sized bag of Munchie Mix and fell asleep there, waiting patiently for Eli to come home from school.


School pick up ensued, then playdates with friends, then dinner. It is cold and clear tonight, and I’m getting my hair cut tomorrow and all’s well that ends well.

(Notes from Eli after viewing: i love your story! thank you for posting that story!)
(Notes from Arlo: your story is great and I really liked the pictures!)

Thanks guys. Best kids ever. Also, turns out Black Eyed is actually named Super No Name.

Ninety-Eight — Free Association

Let’s do this, post number ninety-eight!

If I was ninety-eight years old right now, it would be the year 2072 and exactly three months until my ninety-ninth birthday! I might have grandchildren, or great grandchildren.

A girl I used to be friends with in grade two started having her children while she was just out of high school and is now going to be a grandmother. She is forty-one. I’m not sure if this makes me feel old or young. Mostly just grateful to be me.

There is a woman in our neighbourhood — she is somewhere between forty-one and one hundred years old — who stands at the pedestrian-controlled crossing by the Safeway, pressing the button. She sometimes crosses when the light changes, but then she stands on the other side and presses the button to change the light again. She also chats with people while they wait for the light to change. I’ve never seen her anywhere but standing next to the pole with the button, anxiously watching traffic. She’s really concerned about traffic.

In the past few months the cycle on the lights has grown longer. It used to be one of those corners where as soon as you pressed the button, the light would change, but now it can take five minutes. If you’re driving, sometimes longer. You have to back up and go forward, trying to trigger the sensor that changes the light. Or maybe there’s no sensor and it’s just the entertainment for the people who live in the new apartment building across the street.

The new apartment building promised us street-level shops but so far all I see is a paper sign declaring DENTAL OFFICE OPENING SOON and a People’s Drug Mart. The Drug Mart used to be in the location where the apartments now are (it used to be a strip mall) and when the apartments were being built, the Drug Mart moved a couple of blocks away, to a terrible location on the other side of a very busy road. Now they are moving back. The last iteration of the Drug Mart didn’t have much except drugs. I am hoping the new iteration will have something good like lip gloss.

For the other street-level shops I am hoping for a coffee shop that is not Starbucks (there are already two of those just a block away) and a book store. If you’re going to hope, hope; that’s what I say.

There should be more book stores open near drug stores. After all, where are you going to go while you wait for your prescription to be filled? What else would be nice? A taco place. A tattoo parlour. A consignment clothing store that has the perfect jacket.

I may, this Fall/Winter, cave and buy a puffy down jacket with a fur collar. Why fight against the current?

Yesterday we drove very far to Harrison Mills, or near it, to see spawning salmon and feasting eagles. We saw a lot of both. There is an annual Eagle Festival based around the time when all the salmon come to spawn and die and the eagles arrive to eat their faces off. The festival is next week but we’re busy next week and this past weekend was a long weekend because of Remembrance Day. We were all in various stages of various sicknesses, it being mid-November, so a long car ride to a giant outdoor observatory with very few other people was exactly what the doctor ordered.

I’m not sure what the kids thought of the concept of swimming for miles and miles and miles and miles to lay your eggs and then die and then be eaten by eagles. Arlo did say, “It’s too bad they have to die,” and I said, “well, if they didn’t, the eagles wouldn’t have as much to eat,” and then we sang the circle of life together and drove home.

Actually if the salmon never showed up, the eagles would still have plenty to eat in the way of little dogs that live in the fancy gated housing development that’s built right on the river front / observatory. Why you would spend a bunch of money to build your dream country-woods house and then have a purse dog / eagle bait that you have to walk every day is way beyond me but maybe it will make sense when I’m retired.

I hope not.

In terms of my own life cycle, I am glad that after spawning I have a few years to carry on living before I am consumed by death. Hooray for being human, not fish. It’s the way to go.

Ninety-Five — Conversations

This morning I walked the kids to school and then dropped by the office to fill out a volunteer form so I could accompany Eli’s kindergarten class to the grocery store for a field trip. The office secretary was giving out late slips and it was lovely to hear her greet each late child by name. There is a sadness inherent in chronic tardiness, isn’t there? Then I get over that sadness. It’s elementary school, not a Canadian dysfunctional novel. All is probably well.

One girl came in and the secretary said she looked tired.
“Oh yes,” the girl said. “I was up until ONE AM.”
“My,” said the secretary.
“I have so many things on the weekends,” said the girl. “Dance, soccer, Bulgarian school…”

Her eyes were wide. She didn’t look tired to me. I wasn’t buying it. Some kids like having lots of activities. Some kids can’t tell time. Some kids just like people to feel sorry for them.

The walk to the grocery store was illuminating. The little girl walking in front of me told me all about her visiting grandparents, her younger sibling, and that she was sick actually. Right then. Today.

“I am so sick,” she said.
“Oh that’s too bad,” I said. To be polite, I asked, “Do you have a cough, or a stuffy nose?”
“I’m just sick sick sick,” she went on. “But still I have to come to school. And now [sibling A] and [sibling B] will get sick.”
“The more kids you have in your house, the sicker everyone will be,” I agreed.

We left it at that.

The grocery store field trip was a nutrition teaching expedition. Nutritionists took the children in two groups through the store and explained the Canada Food Guide and its rainbow of suggested food servings.

Mostly the kids were fascinated by the demonstration glass of milk. They all tapped it and marvelled that you could turn it over and nothing happened. It didn’t spill. MAGIC.

In the cereal aisle the children sat on the floor and learned how much fibre is needed in a serving of cereal to make it healthy (5g or more) and how much sugar (7g or less). A man who was going to shop down that aisle stopped short and asked me what was going on. He had a baguette tucked under his arm.

“They’re a kindergarten class,” I said, “learning about how to eat good food.”
“In the CEREAL aisle?” he scoffed.
“Um, yeah, they’re talking about breakfast,” I said.
“Sure, I get it,” he said and walked away.

You get it? What? Big Froot Loop rides again? Innocent children being brainwashed into thinking breakfast cereal might be an option as a food item? Way to stick it to The Man, baguette-eater.

Some days uptown New Westminster just has a lot more going on. Today was one of those days. Each corner of 6th & 6th had a strange looking person standing on it, someone grey-faced or slouching, someone with a hand shoved at a strange angle inside a jacket pocket. Someone with slightly outside-the-lines lipstick. A woman with a toddler-aged grandchild in a stroller was cooing, “Some-one is all poooopy..” while she waited for the light to change. A man with an artificial-looking beard asked me for change.

In the Most Depressing Mall in the Universe, where I went to buy lip balm at the drug store, a man followed me down the hall from the bathroom, his feet sounding alarmingly quick behind me. He wanted to ask how tall I was.

“Five foot ten,” I said. “Goodbye.”

Later, the kids had a friend over and they watched a video on youtube. Then another, and another. It was “American Girl,” at some point, a new pop song. I watched them closely as they watched, and I heard the following conversation:

(after a closeup of the three women in the video from behind)

“The camera just totally zoomed in on their BUTTS! Why did it DO that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Hey, that’s a nice car.”
“I like that guy’s tattoo. That’s really cool.”
“I think it’s a Mustang…”
“Hey she’s stealing his car!”
“She’s totally stealing it!”
“I don’t want to watch this anymore.”

I heard this song by J. Roddy Walston and the Business in the car this evening and had to wait until it was done to turn off the engine. This love is subject to revision.