Sunday, 29 December 2013

The joys of walking

I’ve started walking again.

I don’t mean I’ve suddenly gained the ability to walk – I never lost it. What I mean is I’ve started walking for exercise, something I used to do a lot but let fall by the wayside, like many interests and pleasures I’ve had over the years.

Actually, I’m a bit superstitious about even mentioning the walking, afraid I’ll instantly lose interest, like I did with this blog.

It was our new dog that made me start again. Her name is Pyper and she’s a borderline sociopath of the canine variety. I’m sure you know the type – absolutely adorable, very intelligent, but behind the façade is a complete nutter capable of ridiculous actions, such as ploughing a tunnel through the snow using only her head, and feats of destructiveness that defy description. I swear, she’s the dog responsible for putting the word “spring” into English Springer Spaniel. She is constantly bouncing through the air, like the canine equivalent of Tigger. She can also stand on her hind legs for long periods of time, just like a giant-sized prairie dog. It’s how she sees above the high weeds in our hay field.

There are lots of things I can complain about when it comes to Pyper, her biggest fault being her unending supply of energy – thus the need for twice daily high intensity nature walks, including a stop by the creek so she can wade and swim in the water (even in winter). She also has an oral fixation involving sticks that borders on the pornographic. The longer the stick, the better, as long as she can get her jaws around it. And she takes great pleasure in gripping it by one end and then running full speed right at you, veering at the last minute so the stick bangs against your ankles or into the back of your knees.

Pyper with a softer tool - a corn stalk

Take it from someone who has the scrapes and bruises of experience – it hurts like hell. There’s only so much of that game I can take before I lose my temper and grab the stick from her mouth, snapping it over my knee into smaller lengths in hopes of saving my shins. The shorter sticks only keep her amused for a minute or two; then she goes in search of another long stick and the cycle continues. And if the stick is a big one that I can’t break easily (in other words, a log), I’m forced to carry the damn thing until I can dispose of it when she’s not looking.

I’m not sure if the walks have been helping Pyper but they have certainly been helping me. I enjoy the quiet and solitude. It helps me think and I write and compose blogs and articles in my head as I walk. But I learned the hard way I need to do these walks with only the dog for company. One of the Goobers decided to come with me one evening and it almost killed me. She just kept talking and talking and talking. Even after I told her I like the quiet, she kept on nattering. I’m all for communication but stream of consciousness talking drives me batty. Now I sneak out of the house quickly, hoping no one will see me heading for the backfield. And solitude – until the first stab in the ankle or shin.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Genius

My husband’s a genius.

I’m sure you already know this since I usually refer to him as The Genius in this blog. Once in a while, I forget about his mental prowess and have to be reminded of his ability to puzzle out the most complicated mechanical procedures. It’s easy to become complacent when you always have someone around to repair your iPhone when it goes all kooky or replace the windshield wiper motor in your car when it goes on the fritz. Sometimes I need a reminder. This past Christmas Day provided one.

The Genius is the youngest of six and, let’s just say, the rest of his siblings are no mental slouches either. There are two university professors in the mix, a retired high-level banking executive, an accounting wizard, a social worker and, of course, The Genius, who works in engineering. Those that still live in southern Ontario gather every Christmas Day with their children (and grandchildren) at the home of one of the sister’s to celebrate the holiday as a family. It’s a tradition they’ve had for many years, at least as long as I’ve been part of the group (about 15 years). A huge turkey dinner is had and gifts are exchanged among the younger children.

Sometimes, the siblings have an opportunity to show off the cool “toys” they received for Christmas and this past gathering was no exception. The hostess of the annual celebration had received a Bose speaker plus an Apple TV system. The problem was, no one knew how to install the gifts so they worked on her antiquated flat screen TV. Various people tackled the problem throughout the day but no one could figure it out. The final verdict was a new TV would probably be needed to make everything work.

I have a bad habit of volunteering The Genius for various projects without first checking with him – fixing my parent’s water pump and a complicated washing machine repair come to mind. So I kept quiet as I watched the small groups try their best to work through the problem. Wires were connected and reconnected, rerouted through various devices. It was looking like a dog’s breakfast of coaxial cable and power cords. I finally looked over at him and whispered: “Do something!”

Half asleep after a rather filling turkey dinner and hesitant to rise from his very comfortable chair, The Genius sighed.

“I don’t want to just take over,” he whispered back.

“Hook the damn thing up!”

Assisted by his oldest nephew, The Genius surveyed the situation, moving cords and reattaching cables. It made sense to him – of course, it was gibberish to me. It took him about 10 minutes to do what no one else was able to accomplish – connect the Apple TV and satellite system to the TV and have the sound come through the new Bose speaker.

It took him a further 30 minutes to explain to his sister how to use the system. About 20 minutes of that involved him standing patiently waiting for her to finish venting about the fact she didn’t even want the new speaker in the first place.

I leaned over and whispered to the oldest in the family: “He’s never that patient with me.”

She laughed, explaining it was a privilege reserved for older siblings.

Later, The Genius sat down again, exhausted from having to go through every step required to use the new system.

“That was painful,” he said.

“Isn’t fighting with your gifts part of Christmas?” joked one of his nephews.

Of course, the kicker is they weren’t even his gifts.

Currently, The Genius is busy working on setting up my new laptop computer. He’s puzzling through how to transfer about 3,200 ebooks and an iTunes library of about 1,800 songs without losing anything.

I know he’ll figure it out. He always does. It’s one of the reasons I married him.

Most women I know tell me wonderful stories of romantic spur of the moment trips to Paris or helicopter rides over Niagara Falls – the moment I knew I was going to marry The Genius occurred as I watched him take apart the under-sink plumbing in a hotel bathroom.

We were in Stratford, Ontario, for my job. I was putting in a marathon weekend of watching and writing reviews for three Stratford Festival plays. The Genius was my guest. We had already seen two – Equus the night before and a matinee of another play, the name of which escapes me. Our final play was to be an evening performance of Death of a Salesman starring Al Waxman of King of Kensington plus Cagney and Lacey fame.

I was in the washroom getting ready when one of my diamond stud earrings fell off the side of the sink and down the drain. Shit! I went back into our hotel room, explaining to The Genius that, like an idiot, I had lost my earring and it was gone for good.

Five minutes later, he was crawling into the sink cabinet, a toolbox from the trunk of his car next to him. He soon had the plumbing apart and was banging the P-trap on the floor. Out popped my diamond stud earring plus 85 cents in change. A few wrench turns later, the plumbing was back in place and we made it to the play with time to spare.

Up to that point in my life, no one had ever done anything so thoughtful for me. It has stuck with me all these years. It can be difficult living with a genius – the banging in the basement, tools scattered everywhere, burnt off eyebrows from those failed experiments. When it gets really bad, I remember that diamond stud earring plus the 85 cents. I think I bought a Coke with it.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Remembering a friend

My family lost a close and very dear friend back in February 2007. I think about him everyday. Back when it happened, I even wrote an editorial for one of my magazines about him. My publisher of the time pulled the editorial. He told me no one really cared about happenings in my own life. I disagreed, believing my readers  - mostly farmers – would be able to relate. Even so, I caved and wrote something “more suitable.”

I’ve saved that editorial all these years and I’ve decided to publish it here. The Genius once read it at a Toastmaster’s meeting and all the women cried. So be prepared. And please let me know what you think. It can be hard writing into the silent void of the Internet.


My family lost a close and very dear friend recently.

My children had known him their entire lives, my husband for the past nine years or so, and I had been close to him (and he to me) for his entire life.

He was a joker and a free spirit who loved everyone. And everyone loved him right back. He was also the kind of friend you could rely on. When life was tough, he’d be there to talk with and lend a shoulder to cry on. He had a rough side, too. He was a risk taker, an explorer with an enthusiasm for life. We used to joke he’d probably die in mid-stride, on route to a new adventure.

Cancer got him in the end; his body shivering with pain, his breathing laboured.

His name was Jasper – Crystal Creek’s Jasper Jynx to be exact. He was my dog and, simply put, one of my very best friends.

Jasper entered my life 12-plus years ago, a headstrong liver and white coloured English Springer Spaniel puppy who cried and whimpered almost non-stop for the first two weeks he lived with me. I almost took him back to the breeder I had bought him from. But I persevered and he soon settled down.

If he could be described in one word, I think it would be exuberant – nothing got that crazy dog down. Everyday was a new adventure, every step a new discovery. He was my constant companion. If I went to the store, he rode shotgun. He slept under the covers of my bed at night. And when I went for evening walks on my parent’s farm, he was 20 feet ahead of me. We would walk four miles a day, from one concession to the next and then along a side concession and back again. His flag of a tail was always in front of me, never behind, always urging me on.

When I met my husband, Jasper was there. He was part of my “dowry” (along with a Clydesdale-Saddlebred cross mare named Bobbi) and made the move to my new urban home. My husband, a city boy who had never had a pet dog (which seemed very odd to me at the time and still does), wasn’t very enthusiastic about his new, four-footed housemate. To his credit, he built Jasper a state-of-the art, fully electrified and insulated, heated doghouse (our friends used to joke that all it needed was a computer and Internet access). But the dog didn’t use it for long. Soon, he was basking in the heat or air conditioning of the house. But never the bed – that’s where my husband drew the line.

Jasper and I just weren’t meant for city life. Eventually, my husband and I moved from our cramped city home to a small farm in the country. We hadn’t been in our farmhouse a month before Jasper started cleaning up the new neighbourhood, rousting both an opossum and raccoon family out of our barn and killing a fox.

Nothing gave him more pleasure than to chase barn cats and wild rabbits. The strange thing was, he was always good with the pet rabbits. We once had a massive rabbit break-out – the bunny equivalent of The Great Escape – and it was Jasper who caught them all, one at a time, dropping them at our feet unscathed, with only a few damp hairs and very hurt prides.

When the children came, Jasper was there. He wasn’t sure what to make of them. They smelled interesting but made a lot of noise, especially when he tried to clean their ears. They also didn’t move out of his way. But my husband and I seemed to like the babies so he put up with them. He never growled or snarled when his ears or tail were pulled. He followed the avoidance philosophy – if one of the little critters was bothering him, he’d just get up and leave.

Unfortunately, the kids grew up and became faster. I had difficulty explaining to my tear-stained little boy that Jasper wasn’t meant for riding. My daughter was convinced for the longest time the dog was really her brother. Both kids were also fond of pretending Jasper was their long-lost mother. I hadn’t the heart or the ability to make them understand the dog was actually a male – a neutered male at that. Jasper would roll his eyes and try to keep one step ahead of them as they crawled after him, yipping like puppies.

This past Halloween, my daughter insisted the dog dress as a skeleton, complete with glow-in-the-dark bones. It wasn’t long after that he actually began to resemble his Halloween self, the flesh melting from him. His sleek physique and shiny fur disappeared. We tried changing dog food, thinking perhaps his teeth couldn’t handle the crunchy kibble anymore. We tried soft food and soon shifted to canned. He lost weight while his stomach ballooned.

A visit to the vet before Christmas ended in tears. Tumours were growing near Jasper’s liver and spleen. He hadn’t long to live. We gave him the best Christmas ever, complete with liver pate and shrimp. He had a wagon ride to the bush to chase squirrels and bunnies. He ate ravioli and cheeseburgers everyday. And for the last week of his life, he slept on our bed, between my husband and I.

He’s buried along the windbreak just to the west of our house. We wrapped him in a blanket and buried him with his favourite stuffed toy, Clancy. The kids each said goodbye through their tears and my husband, the man who never had the experience of a pet dog, wept.

We look for Jasper everyday, forgetting he’s gone. The children are rallying for a new dog and we’ll probably get one in the spring.

But for now, we remember and honour our dear friend – Jasper.


As an update, we did get a new dog in March 2007. Her name is Jorja (pronounced Georgia), Spring Knight’s Jorja on My Mind to be exact. She too is an English Springer Spaniel but so different from our darling Jazzy. She is quieter, more sedate, steadier and less intelligent. But I love her to death and she loves me – as it should be. She sleeps beside my bed every night and follows me everywhere I go. She loves to lie on the bathroom mat when I have a bath and goes camping with us every summer.

The other half of my “dowry” – my horse Bobbi – joined Jasper along the windbreak in the summer of 2010. This is a sacred space to us now; it is not mown and the grass and weeds grow waist high there every summer. They would both like that – Jasper could hunt for mice and Bobbi could pull mouthfuls of grass. Heaven.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The cow whisperer

Okay, so there’s been a lot of grumbling going on at home and at my work (Barb) about me being a slacker on this blog so I decided I should get off my ass and post something.

Based on the limited feedback I’ve received, it would appear goofy stories about my childhood seem to be the favoured reading material. In light of this, I thought I would tell the story of the first farm animal my family ever purchased – Lilah the Holstein 4H cow.

As I believe I mentioned in an earlier blog posting, although my father was a businessman in his younger years, under his shirt and tie beat the heart of a farmer. When I was about five, we moved to a 50-acre farm adjacent to the Hatchley swamp (I’m not joking), located on the southern edge of Brant County in southwestern Ontario. My parents built a house on the property, which had soil that ranged from pure sand to boot sucking clay and produced the largest mosquitoes and snakes known to man. We moved in just days before the Christmas of 1975. The next spring, my father set to work building a barn. I believe he had it finished that summer and my mother spent her holidays from her off-farm job painting the trim around the windows (which came from a bus, I kid you not), swatting bird-sized mosquitoes and killing a steadily growing pile of snakes (a story for another day).

After the barn was completed and hay and straw had been moved into the loft, my father decided we should buy a cow. Now that I’m an adult, I must admit I’m not sure what my father was thinking when he decided we needed a cow, and a milk cow no less. Milking cows is a lot of work – they need to be milked twice a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for as long as they are giving milk (they usually dry up just before they have a calf, which is typically an annual event on a dairy operation). That takes dedication and skill, skill I don’t think we as a family possessed at that time. But it didn’t matter – I was just a kid then and I was very excited by the prospect of a new animal to maul, even if it did weigh 1,000 pounds.

I’m not sure how the transaction came about or where exactly she came from or even how she got to the farm (I seem to remember something about her walking behind the truck but that can’t be true) but one day Lilah arrived at the farm. Lilah was huge – (well she looked huge to six-year-old me), a large boned, black and white Holstein, a milking breed. And she was fat, huge with a baby calf that was expected fairly soon. I was ecstatic – a two-for-one deal! My mother was leery.

Lilah was moved into the barn and a pen was quickly constructed out of straw bales. A pasture was also made near the barn in the apple orchard using old fence posts and barbed wire. During the day, Lilah would graze in the pasture and at night, she came into the barn. But since there was no plumbing in the barn yet, my father had to lead her down to the pond morning and night for a drink.

The cool thing about Lilah was she had been a 4H calf in her youth, meaning she was halter trained and spoiled rotten. She had been brushed, trimmed and coddled by the dairy farmer’s son and shown at fairs across the region. She was basically a very large cow that thought it was a dog. My mother would watch in horror as my dad tried to lead her to the water. Lilah would jump and buck and kick in her excitement and basically drag my father to the pond and then drag him back to the barn. She would lower her head and moo at him, trying to butt him with her forehead (a common cow behaviour) and my dad would have to hide behind a tree while she worked off her energy.

Lilah even came with her own urban … umm … rural legend: she had saved the life of the dairy farmer’s son by pulling the drowning boy out of an irrigation pond he had fallen in. Who knows if the story was true – I was ready to believe the damn cow could fly – but Lilah did have an interesting skill that not every cow possessed. She was broke to ride like a horse. Every chance I could, I would beg my dad to boost me up on that cow’s back so I could ride her around the field, clutching her built in “handle” – the bony ridge at her withers. She would start off the ride gently but once she had enough, she would take me under a low tree branch and knock me off.

I thought she was wonderful.

Everyday after school, I would jump off the bus, run up the driveway and check on the cow. As the due date of her expected calf drew closer, she was kept in the barn most of the time. One day, I came into the barn and was met by a deep moo and then a smaller little croak. The baby had come! Lilah was laying in the deep straw of her pen and beside her lay a little black and white calf. I was so excited, I jumped into the pen to see the little one.

Now, those of you who have a farming background already know that jumping into the pen of an animal that has just had a baby is a very stupid thing to do. No matter how tame the animal, you just don’t know how they will react to a human being in the mix. I was a naïve six-year-old and was clueless about animal behaviour. I curled up beside the calf and Lilah in the straw to enjoy the newest member of the family. And Lilah just lay there, chewing her cud.

About an hour later, my mother came home from work. My older siblings told her all about the new calf. After doing a quick head count, my mother asked where I was. Out to the barn the group marched and discovered me lying in the pen. My mother thought I had been trampled. But I was just curled up beside the calf, both of us sleeping while Lilah watched over us.

The little calf turned out to be a girl – a heifer – and we called her Rosebud in honour of my mother. Unfortunately, not long after her arrival, my dad had to sell Lilah, realizing there was no way we could properly care for this milk-producing machine. A truck came and the pair were loaded.

I cried as they drove down the laneway.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Messy mind, messy life, messy page

I'm not sure if many of you have noticed but this blog writing thing is kind of difficult. It's kind of like life - it's easy to lose track and just let it go. Then one day, you wake up and you're pissed you let so much time go by without actually doing or writing SOMETHING! But you're not quite certain what to do or write.

That's me today.

I'm sitting in my warm house looking at the snow piled up outside, facing six days of rest and relaxation. But inside, I'm bubbling and boiling. I can't relax. I don't want to read the current novel I'm wading through, I don't want to do laundry, I don't want to clean up, I don't want to write in my blog, I don't want to write. I don't know what I want to do. My skin is prickling with over stimuli and I just want to cut and peel it off. I'm sweating from anxiety, my stomach clenching. One minute my mind flashes quickly through a sequence of thoughts; the next minute, I'm struggling to remember the dog's name.

I have to do something today, something! But what?

I've forced myself to put away dishes and fill the dishwasher but there is no satisfaction.

Yesterday, I tried to leave the house, drive to town, get away. But the Genius was full of questions - Where was I going? What was I doing? How long would I be gone? I didn't know. I had no set plan. He wanted us all to go together, maybe see a movie. I wanted to be alone but my heart soared at the idea of a movie. Darkness, popcorn, an escape from reality for two hours, bliss. The Goobers didn't want to see the same movie we wanted to. They didn't want to see the movie they were interested in at the same theatre complex while we (the adults) watched what we wanted to see. They didn't want to leave the house. I gave up. It's like I can't escape, even for a few hours.

I have to do something today - something! Please!

Only six more days to go.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A state of grace

Well, The Genius was a bit bummed out by my last blog entry. He said he “liked” it BUT it depressed him. So, I thought I’d try to lighten things up a bit.

Grace – that wonderful pre-meal tradition where you thank some invisible dude for the food you’re about to eat that you know damn well was actually grown or produced by a farmer somewhere, purchased with your hard-earned money and cooked in your stifling hot kitchen. When I was a kid, grace was a big deal. It was always said before each meal and the honor of spouting it off was usually rotated through myself and my three older siblings. My parents never had to say it, although on special occasions – like Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving – my mother seemed to have the power to whip a long, flowery one out of thin air. It would go on and on and on and on as the food steamed and went cold around us.

As the youngest and least powerful member of my family, the job of saying grace seemed to fall on my shoulders a bit more often than everyone else. I hated it. I was hungry. I wanted to eat the meal that I knew my mother actually prepared, not some high and mighty invisible deity. Why’d I have to thank HIM? As with all things I didn’t want to do, I eventually rebelled.

I think I was about 14 or 15 when the incident happened. For my 13th birthday, my father had finally given in to my years and years of incessant whining and begging and had purchased me my very own horse. His name was Pongo (named in honor of the dog in One Hundred and One Dalmations) because he resembled a dalmation – white and covered in brown spots. He was purchased at the annual Norwich horse auction and I was never prouder than the afternoon I led him up our farm driveway, much to the horror of my mother (she wasn’t a fan of horses).

Owning Pongo resulted in many adventures that I might share with you some other day, including near death experiences for both the horse and myself. As a result of an illness that almost killed Pongo – a story for another day – he experienced “off” days when he wasn’t 100 per cent healthy and would lay around groaning in the field. It was amazing how often these episodes seemed to correlate to the times when I wanted to go for a ride.

It was during one of these bouts of equine malaise the great grace incident happened. It was a Saturday and I had spent most of the afternoon sitting beside my groaning horse in his pasture rather than actually hacking with him down the road. I was concerned I might have to phone the vet – again – and my father wasn’t home to bounce the idea off or finance the visit. I was contemplating selling my new English saddle to pay for the vet bill when my mother yelled out the back door for me to come in and have dinner. About 10 minutes later, she was back shouting for me again. After the third shout and the use of all three of my names, I decided I better go in. With one last concerned glance back at my suffering steed, I went in the house to eat.

It was just a small group for the evening meal – my sister, her boyfriend, my mom and I. As I sat down after scrubbing my hands in the laundry room sink, my mother informed me they had already said grace but I was going to need to say it again since I was so late to the table.

“GodisgreatGodisgoodletusthankhimforourfoodamen,” I mumbled, actually reciting that blessing faster than the speed of sound.

I reached out for a bowl of mashed potatoes but was stopped by the sharp use of my name.

My mother wasn’t impressed with my amazingly speedy recitation. She trembled in her chair with outrage.

“You’re going to say it again but this time, with feeling,” she said through clenched teeth.

I’m not sure what made me do it. Maybe it was the idea of entertaining my sister’s boyfriend. Maybe I was unstable after the stress of caring for my sickly horse all afternoon. Maybe I just wanted to be a smart ass. Whatever the reason, I mentally snapped. She wanted a grace said with feeling, she’d get a grace said with feeling.

The rest of them were open mouthed in disbelief as I stood up from my chair.

“GOD IS GREAT,” I boomed in my best impression of a Baptist preacher, both of my arms extended up to the ceiling like I was worshiping the wagon wheel chandelier.

“GOD IS GOOD,” I added, pointing at each one of them sitting around the table.

“LET US – THANK HIM – FOR OUR – FOOOOD!” I shouted, rattling the plates and silverware as I pounded my fist on the surface of the dining room table to the beat of my voice.

Now for the big finish.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN,” I sang, holding the note for as long as I could.

I plunked back down into my chair and once again reached for the potatoes. I KNEW those acting lessons would come in handy some day.

My performance was met with complete silence. I think I was two spoonfuls in to loading my plate when I heard the first noise. It was a choking sound deep in the throat of my sister’s boyfriend. I quickly glanced up at him. His face was turning deep purple and I knew I had him. A laugh exploded out of his mouth along with some green beans. He gasped for breath in between bouts of laughter, tears streaming down his face. My sister soon followed, her shoulders shaking with the effort of trying to keep in the sound. She soon lost the battle, hanging onto her boyfriend for support as she laughed and laughed.

My eyes turned to my mother. If I thought she was trembling before, now she looked like she was experiencing her very own internal earthquake. She positively vibrated in her chair. Her eyes were huge, her face pale except for bright red patches on each of her cheeks. She gripped her cutlery, her knuckles white. We stared at each other for what seemed like hours. At first I was worried. She looked pretty pissed off and she was holding a knife in her hand. But then I saw it, that slight quiver in the corner of her mouth, a small curve to her lip. She was fighting back a smile. Without a word, she dropped her eyes back down to her plate of food and I did the same.

It took my sister and her boyfriend a few minutes to gain back their composure but they too were soon eating their meals.

The battle of grace had been waged and I had won. I had made my point, expressed my opinion, let my view on the exercise be known in the best way I knew how – like the smart ass I was.

After that, my mother always paused before asking me to say grace. Perhaps she wasn’t sure what I would actually do. Or maybe she was just trying to choke back a chuckle.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The big black blob of blah

It’s been a tough week. Not tough in the sense of hard or difficult. It’s been tough in the sense of blah.

I have a big black blob of blah that builds up inside of me from time to time. And no I haven’t been smoking wacky tobacco or popping illegal drugs. It’s “big” because it’s constantly growing, feeding on the disappointments and negativity in my life. It’s “black” because that’s what my mood becomes when it shows up. I call it a “blob” because it works pretty much like that creeping amoeba-like alien that Steve McQueen had to deal with in the movie – it covers everything and cuts off all that is good and light, growing bigger and bigger as it consumes more and more. And “blah” is pretty much self-explanatory – that’s how I feel inside when it’s around.

The big blob of blah has been around for a long time, pretty much since high school. I’ve always envisioned it looking like a really evil black Barbapapa. One day I’ll feel fine – laughing and joking – the next it’s like “clickety-click, Barba trick” and the blah descends (it's usually NOT smiling).

I try to work through the big blob of blah, forcing myself forward, always forward. Get dressed, go to work, do work, socialize with co-workers, go home, interact with the Goobers and the Genius, try to write. But the blob is made of sticky stuff. Peel it from one surface, and it’s soon stuck to another, like an annoying burr of negativity. And lately it’s been getting worse.

Back when I was young and gung-ho to change the world, I composed a mental list of experiences and accomplishments I hoped to achieve in my lifetime. The list was lengthy and – shall we say – overly optimistic. Here’s just a sampling of the feats I was going to accomplish:
  • Win an Academy Award – At first it was going to be in an acting category, then I moved on to directing. Now I’d settle for original work or adapted screenplay. Who am I kidding? I’d settle for best sound.
  • Write a “great” novel – Of course, along with that “great” novel would come fame and fortune, a Governor General’s Award, possibly the Giller or Man Booker prize, and the opportunity to adapt it to film, thus leading to the Academy Award.
  • Earn a university degree – When I toddled off to university many, many years ago, I was an immature idiot. I partied like it was 1999 (actually it was 1989) and blew all kinds of opportunities, mainly the chance to earn a degree. It’s something I’ve regretted very much. I have tried various times to get that ever elusive degree but life always becomes too busy and formal education falls by the wayside. So, alas, I only have an honors diploma.
  • Travel around the world – I have been to some amazing and beautiful places in my life, such as Israel, Egypt, Mexico and England. But currently I seem to be stuck in a rut of work trips to Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin. These are lovely places with great people but when you say Green Bay, exotic and exciting doesn’t come to mind.
  • Win the Triple Crown with a filly – I love horses and I love thoroughbred horse racing. I’ve always dreamed of owning a horse farm stabled with some of the fastest horses in the world. Of course, their bloodlines would all trace back to the great Man o’War, the original Big Red. Breeding and training a three-year-old horse that can win the Triple Crown is a great achievement and hasn’t been done in about 40 years. And it has never been accomplished by a filly.
  • Meet and be friends with some of my favorite celebrities – Yeah, right! Welcome to Fantasy Island! This has been a steadily shifting list of favorites that once included David Hasselhoff (from his Knight Rider days) and Mr. November from the 1986 or 1987 Chippendales calendar (I can’t remember which year). Now I’d want to party with Matthew Gray Gubler, the guy who plays Rick on The Walking Dead, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Robert Pattinson (K-Stew can stay home) and a steady stream of dead famous people (Alfred Hitchcock, James Mason, John Belushi, etc.). And then I’d probably want Taylor Swift to write and sing a song about it.
  • Win an Olympic gold medal in the Three-Day Event – I can still remember the day my boyfriend in high school informed his mother that this is what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” The stunned minute of silence paired with rapid eye blinking should have been my first hint that this was maybe a bit much. Now, I’d be happy if I could fit into my riding breeches and heave my fat ass up on a horse.
  • Win the Nobel Prize for Literature – In order to win this baby, you have to have actually written a book; well, several books. And they would have to be REALLY GOOD. About the only criteria I currently meet for obtaining this great honor is the fact I have a pulse.
So, as you can see, having a firm grasp on reality and setting realistic goals are not my strong points. Thus leading to the big black blob of blah.

I’m getting older and older and older and with each passing year, accomplishing even one of these dreams is becoming harder and harder to attain. And that bums me out. BIG TIME. I had all these great ideas and optimistic goals (well, overly optimistic) and I haven’t been able to come close to even one of them. And the big black blob of blah likes to remind me of this – often. As a result, I take lots of blob-busters, lay on couches and talk to nice, understanding people, and wonder when the big black blob of blah will finally consume me.