Do without

Having no money sucks. How many things can you do without it? Really. Go for a walk? That’s about it and you need clothes and shoes to do it and maybe some water and your keys, phone, whatever.

As part of the path of being thankful for what I have, I became aware of the things I haven’t. Like eucalyptus oil. And tea lights. Caribbean holiday, haven’t had one of those for a while let alone a vacation home. Where are the timeshares? The millions of dollars I think the cosmos owes me?

So I just pretend. I like looking over the luxurious real estate ads and deciding which ones I want to view. I have all kids of fantasies about moving in or rather having my people do it. I’ll need a housekeeper, hopefully she’s a chef, like, gourmet. Then I would need a lawyer and financial advisor to watch my money and make it more money and then I would need someone to watch over them because well, you know.

By this time, I am tired of all these people and just want some peace and quiet so I’m thankful I don’t want to see any of those luxurious properties because if I did, well, it would take so much effort. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The effort. If you want something, anything, you have to put in the effort. There are few, if any, overnight success stories. Anything worth accomplishing takes a concentrated, continuous effort. That’s just the way it is.

So for now, I will be thankful for the things I do have. A place to sleep, food to eat and people who love me. That’s all you really need. Everything else is gravy.


The bird’s nest

Courtesy tackorama.netSpring is in the air. Nature awakes. Birds chase one another in a never-ending cycle of life.

Bits of sticks, pieces of hay, some dirt and water. A bird’s nest. A home, underneath my deck. Sheltered, protected from predators and the elements. The Robin lays her eggs. The father perches close by. He yells at me in the evenings when I sit outside, a big threat. That’s okay, I get it.

Soon enough, the eggs have hatched. There are four baby birds and they are hungry. I read that newborn birds have to be fed every 15 – 20 minutes from sunrise to sunset and I can believe it. It seemed like they were always crying. I would watch the mother and father fly back and forth from nest to field and back again. In the space between the boards, I could see them feeding the hatchlings throughout the day.

And so it went until one day when there was no more chirping. I peeked through the crack and sure enough, the nest was empty. They were gone. Just like life. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just the way it is. I guess the trick is to enjoy it while it’s happening so you can remember when it isn’t.

Flag girl person whatever

I wasn’t going to say anything. Really I wasn’t. But I couldn’t take it anymore. It goes like this.

Where I live, it’s lush. And when spring comes around, things start to grow. My brother once said, “The problem around here is that things grow too well.” And he’s right. So, the municipality has to cut back the growth on city property. Which is all well and good and also an inconvenience.

There is a road that runs mostly parallel along the coast. For a good part of this road, there is rock and vegetation on one side and ocean or residences on the other. It’s one lane each way with barely enough room to pass a cyclist on a clear stretch. And because the road twists and turns so often, you can follow a cyclist for blocks at 15 kph. But this story isn’t about cyclists. I use this road regularly.

Fluorescent signs. Slow down. Flag person. I’m always curious since the sign is neutral. Usually it’s a flag girl with attitude. I mean, I don’t know what they teach them in flag school but they just throw up their hand in your face windshield. So agressive. I think it might be the sign or whatever. And the way they stand. I guess you have to be that way when you’re dealing with cars and trucks, all dressed up in a fluorescent suit on a hot day.

Anyway. You wait. What else can you do? Nothing. One lane traffic either way. That’s cool. The sunroof is open. It’s a beautiful day. Eventually, it’s your turn. There is always a moment of panic where they might throw up that sign in your face again but…it’s all good. And it’s okay if this happens once or maybe twice along the way. Fourth time, there is only so much anyone can take.

In the end, none of it will really matter. The lush growth or my irritation at being inconvenienced. The best approach is to just accept it and remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. That’s just the way it is.

Later that evening I was looking at myself in the mirror. You know, for a second. Why is one side of my face markedly more tanned than the other? Right. The sunroof. How does one even start to remedy the situation? Ugh.

No matter, next day, it wasn’t so bad. Noticeable to me but anyone else? Not so much. I’m not going to worry too much about looking like a harlequin. In the end, everything is okay. If everything is not okay, it’s not the end. Life goes on. And I’m okay with that.

Aliens among us

It’s not an unusual thought. Or original. But some people were talking the other day about it. Which reminds me of a friend who said Barack Obama is the first robot president. I thought that was funny – and weird. Anyway, these kids, probably 20 somethings, were talking about how aliens live among us and run the government and big corporations. And I thought, hmm, it’s possible.

I mean, I think I’m pretty smart but there are some things I just don’t get. Like cell phones. How are they possible? Pretty sure aliens had something to do with that. And microwaves. Fire I can understand because it’s hot, but. Press the button and one minute later, presto? It’s like magic, only real.

Looking back I think I’ve always been in a state of awe and wonder at the world. I just thought I was confused. If you stop to think about it, it’s all pretty unreal. I mean, how can a seed contain all the knowledge it needs to grow into something wonderful? Life is miraculous. It’s just so hard to see sometimes because everything else takes your time and attention. It’s true! It’s happened to me.

I don’t really want to think that aliens walk among us. If they do, they’re doing a pretty good job of disguising themselves. Although, when I look at some people…whatever.

Maybe I’m an alien and that’s why I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere and everyone is a stranger. Did you ever think about that? Huh? Just kidding. I think probably everyone feels, at one time or another, that they don’t belong. It could be part of the process of finding out where you do belong. It’s part of the human condition. We’re all aliens.


I’ve been thinking about words a lot lately. Particularly words that have similar sounds but entirely different meanings or words that sound and are spelled the same but mean something different. Words communicate and if one doesn’t have the right words, it’s hard to get the point across. It all started when one of my friends was recalling a recent trip to the emergency.

“And you know what it’s like in emergency, they are all idiots,” she said. Well, now, they are not all idiots but I can certainly understand her frustration. It’s hard to know what anyone is going through by looking at them. As she went on, I started to think about the word emergency and that the word emerge was in the word emergency. Then I thought the word emerge sounded nice and pleasant, like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon. It made me feel like I’d arrived. Emerge. But then the word emergency didn’t make me feel that way at all. Then I wondered, who is in charge of words anyway?

“Are you listening to me?” she says. Uh huh. I lied.

It was probably later the next day when I was thinking about the conversation and I thought of the word hospital and that it is part of the word hospitality. I love hospitality! I mean, whether I’m guest or host, there is nothing like good hospitality. So what was the person in charge of words thinking when they named a hospitalhospital? What were they thinking? I should have their job.

A little while later, same friend starts talking about how one time she was explaining an event to a group of people and said ejaculation instead of explosion. In the uncomfortable silence, she realized her mistake. Once words are spoken, you cannot bring them back. I thought Freudian slip but whatever, apparently, they were not impressed. Bad visual. I think those people had a skewed perception of her for like, forever. It’s a good thing I like her so much.

Then today, I was at the gym and as I was leaving, some teenagers were pointing to sign that said, Please refrain from… and they were saying refrain, refrain, please refrain. So I started to think about the word. Refrain means to hold oneself back and also is a line or lines that is repeated in a verse or song. It’s like a conspiracy. I love singing!

Then I went into overdrive. Think about you, ewe, and a u-turn. And then what about I, eye, and aye-aye and aye yai yai? The number two, to, too, and t00-too, the ballerina dress.

I decided I should probably just relax and not worry about words so much. It’s beyond my control. I’m only responsible for my behaviour, a liberating thought. Everybody can just do whatever they want, I’m not responsible for their behaviour. I am only responsible for me. Ah. Relief, somehow. I think I’ll have a bath.

It takes effort

Forever is a really long time, so is never. A lot of life is about the maintenance. The shopping, the cooking, cleaning, bathing, laundry and the things we do so we can maintain our lifestyles, whatever form they take. Which leaves little time for much else, unless we make room for it. In order to put new things into our lives, we have to devote the time.

I saw somewhere that we have 25,000 sunrises and that is sobering. Our time on earth is finite. Each day passes with the things we choose to do and that makes up our life. I remember reading somewhere that time doesn’t pass by, you move through it. Time is constant. We are not.

I starting reading a book today about an old man near the end of his life and he is angry and disappointed. Every morning he tosses the pills he is supposed to take through a hole in the window screen, secretly hoping they poison the plants below. Can you imagine?

It was a few weeks ago I decided to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Approach life with an appreciation for what I have, not what I don’t. Looking at it this way, I have a lot to be thankful for, like this girl.

Instead of concentrating on all the negative aspects to living – and there are many, I’m trying to keep on the sunny side. It takes effort.

Living in a cloud

So I live in this place called West Vancouver. Have you ever been? It’s beautiful. The scenery is stunning. The community is built from the seashore up the mountains north of Vancouver. Walking or driving or running or biking or hiking or whatever, there are some incredibly picturesque vistas, depending on the time of year and your point of view.

When I moved here from Toronto, I was telecommuting for a major bank and wanted to live in a high security building for my daughter and I, she was thirteen or fourteen at the time.

The reason I needed some high security wasn’t because I was working for the bank. The bikers were trying to recruit me. I know. It happens to everyone.

See, in Toronto, we rented a room to this guy. I’ll call him Chad. So Chad moves in and it’s clear Chad is a dealer. You know, a dealer. I should have caught it. His cell phone kept ringing when he came to see the place. I’m blond. That’s my excuse

He moves in and his cell phone rings a lot and there are always people coming over. The same ones usually. Like friends.

The good thing was I could get weed anytime. It was easy. Just go downstairs and knock on his door and score a bag.

Well, after a while it wasn’t that novel and Chad became a bit of a nuisance. No offense but he was a Russian Jew and he had a temper. He would yell, mostly at his girlfriends and his dog, he was such a punk. And then he decided he wasn’t going to pay the rent.

Well, we cut off his cable television and made it clear he was persona non grata.

His motorcycle was parked in our garage and winter was coming so I took it upon myself to move his motorcycle out of the garage and parked it on the driveway.

When Chad saw his motorcycle parked there, he freaked out.

“You touched my bike!”

“We want to use the garage, winter is coming.”

“You touched my bike!”

He touched the bike and it fell over, sending him into a rage. Now the neighbors were looking out their windows.

“You haven’t paid the rent and it’s time for you to go,” I said.

He stormed off.

Well, things went from bad to worse. All of a sudden we had a mice problem. Really. In the middle of the night, I would hear my daughter, “There’s a mouse in my room!” And sure enough there was. I clued in when one of the neighbors’ daughters, who worked at the pet store, asked me, “What is your tenant doing with all those baby mice?“

I visited the local police department to voice my concerns and do you know what they said to me? Of course you don’t.

They (there were two of them) said,

“What are you worried about?” Not at that same time of course.

“I’m worried about the safety of my daughter.”

“Well, don’t leave her alone,” they said. Really. They said that.

“Well, maybe you can patrol our street a few times,” I suggested.

“The new police chief likes helicopters,” they said. “When we get one, maybe we’ll fly over your place and see what we can do.” And they both laughed.

The neighbors were a nice elderly Italian couple, Romeo and Marcella. They visited at any opportunity and invited us over for espresso and brandy regularly.

“Have you ever had any mice problems?” I asked.

“No. Never. Why?”

“Just wondering.”

“You are having problems with your tenant,” says Marcella. Not a question, more matter-of-fact.

“We can handle it.”

“Marcello is coming tomorrow,” says Romeo, referring to their only son. Now, Marcello is fine but he has a bit of a crazy look in his eyes and drives a tow truck, the interior filled with police scanners.

A couple of days later, Marcello comes over.

“So, I hear you are having some trouble with your tenant,” says Marcello.

“Oh, it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

“Does he have a dog?”

“Yes he does.”

“How about we stake it to the lawn?” he suggests, with that crazy look in his eyes.

“No, that won’t be necessary.”

“Listen, the guys need smart people like you,” says Marcello. “We can get rid your tenant. Just let the boys and me move in for a few days and we’ll make sure he goes away. Then you won’t ever have to worry about you or your daughter again.” Really. He said that.

“And then what do I have to do?” I ask, because I’m blond.

“Well, when we need you, we’ll let you know.”

Right. What, to shove someone through a giant auger or something, at three in the morning?

“Thanks anyway, Marcello. We appreciate it. I’m sure this guy will be out soon.”

Well, it just so happens that Chad soon disappears and life returns to normal-ish. See, the laundry facilities and water heater were in Chad’s suite and our lawyer had told us we are not allowed to enter Chad’s suite without his permission  – stupid laws. It was nearing Christmas and we continued living in an awkward anticipation.

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Chad shows up, beaten badly. I mean, he has two black eyes and the bruises that were visible by the way he walked. Someone did a number on Chad. He just glared at me.

Chad moves out with the help of a couple of friends. They were noisy but it was Christmas Eve and he was leaving.

Christmas morning we woke, looking forward to new horizons, when we realized we had no hot water.

Chad had turned off our hot water tank – the pig.

“There is no way we are going to put up with this on Christmas morning,” I said to my daughter.

Chad had changed the locks, so we marched downstairs, with all things, a butter knife, to pick it.

After a couple of useless attempts, my daughter says,

“Let me try.”

I probably rolled my eyes but the door opened the second she touched the lock. We turned up the heat on the tank while we had Eggs Benedict and later hot showers on Christmas morning.

A couple of days later, Marcello shows up.

“So, I hear your tenant is gone,” he says.

“Yeah, he left on Christmas Eve.”

“Huh,” says Marcello. “That’s funny that he would leave on Christmas Eve. What a nice Christmas present that is.”

He winks at me.

“So think about it,” says Marcello. “You know, about the boys and me.”

Oh, I’ve thought about it. I am moving, far away.

And so we landed in West Vancouver with a phone number on a piece on paper that I am supposed to call when I get here from Marcello. Right.

Living in West Vancouver is like being on vacation every day. There is the rain. Some people don’t like it and if you don’t like rain – don’t come here. It’s a rainforest. What do you expect?

Before I moved here, I had no idea there were so many kinds of rain. There is drizzle, scattered showers, light showers, showers, light rain, rain, heavy rain, fat rain. OK, fat rain isn’t official but it’s the kind of rain that soaks you in like, three seconds. From June to September usually, there isn’t much rain. The skies are blue and you forget about all the rain. Well, I do anyway.

Some people never really enjoy life whatever the weather. For them, it’s either too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry, the Goldilocks’ Syndrome. It’s raining right now. Well, you wouldn’t call it rain, more like a swirling mist. It’s like living in a cloud, something I’ve been accused of, a number of times.