Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer in the City, Part 2

DH and I drive up Prince of Wales drive and past Dow's Lake every Wednesday as we drive to our dance lesson. It looks so pretty and I always have wanted to rent a kayak and explore the area. I've explored it once on ice-skates a couple of years back, but the extreme discomfort from ill-fitting skates and freezing my ass off made me unwilling or unable to enjoy the scenery. Not to mention in the winter, there is no scenery, as far as I'm concerned.

Kayaking- now that's more my sport. As a displaced and desperately homesick transplant from Vancouver, I have had the obligatory sea kayaking lessons, and consider myself rather good at it. If I was still blessed enough to live in the Emerald City, I'd have a kayak by now, and would have camped all over the Gulf shores. Seeing the small craft all over Dow's Lake makes my fingers itchy and my heart yearn. I've pestered DH all summer to take me kayaking, to no avail.

Yesterday he announced that he and the girls had been invited to go on a boat ride. One of the girls' little chums from school has a single mother who has nicely inserted herself into my husband's life, and they plan all sorts of activities for themselves and their gaggle of girls. As I'm allergic to children, especially my own, I excuse myself from most all of these plans. I'm not sure how convenient this works out for the single mother, but it's an arrangement that causes me some unease. I trust my husband absolutely but I do not trust these other women who seem to attach themselves to him.

Anyhow. Neither here nor there. Long story short- they were going on a boat ride and I was not invited. I felt hurt and miffed and pissed, and decided to treat myself to my own watery fun. I packed a picnic lunch, a good book and some knitting in a drybag, and set off for Dow's Lake this morning.

I went from one set of locks to the other- I think this is around 10, 12 kms? I put my headphones in and listened to my favourite CBC Sunday afternoon programming as I paddled along. Stuart McLean and Mary Hynes are my favourite kind of company.







What a great way to spend the afternoon. I paddled and picnicked for three hours, completely content and pleased as heck that I had finally done this instead of wishing and thinking about it.

I got home after a quick stop at LCBO for some Leffe and had a lovely quiet afternoon in the grass with the kitties. DH and the girls still aren't home, actually, but that suits me just fine. I still may be a little pissed at him, despite my efforts to mollify myself.

Once again, I owe Ottawa an apology. Thanks for showing me another good time, you grand old dame, you! I suspect you have a few more tricks up your sleeve.

For my Ottawa readers- what else should I experience in this city? Is there a certain festival or fixture that you consider "must see"?

Summer in the City, Part 1

We live in Barrhaven, a southern suburb of Ottawa. Although I like the area we live in, there's not a lot that goes on out here, and I always forget that it's really a short drive to the heart of Ottawa to partake in the full range of city life. Ever since I moved to Ottawa from Kingston, I've grumbled that this city seems boring and soulless, but that's really my own fault for not exploring it more. This weekend I've really made the effort to feel the city, and I'm glad I did.

Saturday's entertainment came to my attention courtesy of CBC Radio One. An interview on Friday with an organizer of a dance event on the Sparks Street mall reminded me that I had meant to check it out this summer- this was my last chance. The Spark Street Dance Challenge was wrapping up on Saturday, and as a bonus, there would be a dance competition before the live music started. DH agreed that this sounded like fun, so we all dressed up and ventured downtown.

The girls were pretty dubious at first, and I have to admit I was too, when the dance competition was between three ballerinas, a jazz dancer, a swinging couple doing the Lindy Hop, and another couple who murdered the tango. The competition didn't really hold our attention so we wandered up the street to find some place nice to eat. After we ate, it was time for the band to begin.

The band was a swing band, lively and fun, and the cobblestones of Sparks Street looked pretty inviting as a dance floor. DH and I were pretty brave and took to the floor first, stretching our meager ballroom and Latin dances to fit the music as best we could. As the night fell, soft and welcoming, more bodies slipped onto the floor. We all danced in the warm summer night, forgetting everything but the joy of movement.

The songs were super long- ten minutes each, or so it seemed. Wayne and I would dance together until we were tired, then each of us would take one of the girls by the hand, teach them the steps of the dance, and dance with them for the rest of the song. They were having a ball- when a song would start, they would beg us to go out and dance; it really meant a lot to them for us to be out there.

We were all getting tired by 9, so Wayne invited his eldest daughter for a dance. They danced together, awkward at first but she slowly picked up on the box step he was doing and began to move better together. After a while, I suggested to the youngest daughter that she should cut in on the dance. She did so, and father and daughter shared another special moment.

It was a magic family evening, and I'm so glad we went. May it be the introduction to a long life of dance for those girls.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Demilitarized Zone

I'm travelling through the demilitarized zone right now. With a month left in uniform, I am wading into the hugely detailed process of wrapping up my career. Appointments, briefings, info sessions and paperwork is the stuff of this next month; no-one really expects me to be around at work a whole lot. I'm going somewhere a lot of people wish they were going, and I carry that aura with me. "She's getting out!" they whisper, half-envious, half betrayed.

I've accumulated a lot of kit in the last 14 years. Kit to see me through war in the forest, desert, and snow as well as nuclear-biological-chemical attacks. I'm turning it all in, five pieces at a time, and freeing up a lot of space in the basement. I turned in a load of winter-warfare crap yesterday, and while the kit didn't have any negative memories attached to it, I was glad nonetheless not to have to use it ever again. I've become too attached to creature comforts to relish sleeping in a tent in the snow and having to haul my weary bones out of a cozy sleeping bag at 0300 for fire picket. No more.

I'll still be subject to the Code of Service Discipline for the next seven months, which means I'll have to wait until the spring to march in a protest, become politically active, dye my hair henna-red, get my nose pierced, or paint my nails orange. I'm not sure I'll actually do any of this when my vow to Queen and Country is dissolved, but it will be nice to have the option.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hardest Thing To Do

I'm a worrier. I work through every single possibility that might happen in a given circumstance, and dread each wrong turn, each mis-step. I know by now that in the vast majority of cases, the things I imagine don't happen, and that real life isn't nearly as terrifying as the things I have cooked up in my head, but I still can't help trying to anticipate everything that happens.

I noticed this weekend that I try to do that on the dance floor, too. As the female, it's my job to remain expectant yet responsive. I never know which way the man will spin me or turn me on the floor, so I must be ready to move in any direction at any time. However, my thinking self, which pretty much always rules the roost, starts taking over and anticipating what will happen. This usually leaves me off-balance for what actually does happen; unprepared and ungraceful in transition. When I manage to clobber my racing mind into submission and just be in the moment, I am one with my partner, one with the dance, one with life.

Isn't this a precept of Zen Buddhism, too? To let go of expectations and flow from moment to moment. It sounds so easy; yet for me, it's the hardest thing to do.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Both Sides Now

I set myself a deadline- I wanted to have the top of my niece's quilt done before Wayne and the girls got home today. They came home at a little after 4, and I had to delay greeting them for about five minutes, while I completed the last seam and trimmed the edges a bit. Here's both sides:


The "A" side, made with super pretty Japanese motif fabric.


The "B" side, with Northcott "Quest for the Cure" charm packs bought at the Stash and Dash Shop Hop in the spring.


It's not a quilt until it has a Feline Stamp of Approval.


Not to be bested by Kate's mastery of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket, I promptly cast on a pair of Cookie A's Hedera socks, done with magic loop, toe-up, two at a time- a new technique for me. Fiddly at first, but I have the hang of it now, and can see it being used a lot.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What a Party!

My knee is stiff. My calves are seized. My feet have hot-spots all over, and I literally blew a shoe. I'm a little dehydrated and a little sunburned, despite the SPF 45 I dipped myself in this morning. My hair is weird, stiff, spiky and salty from all the sweat it absorbed every time it slapped my face in a turn- which was often. All this is to say, goddamn! That was a good afternoon.

Dancing In The Streets was was everything I had thought it might be, though sadly under-attended. I guess with the Ex and Reggae Fest and who knows what other festivals, there wasn't enough people to go around. Plus, I think that this event wasn't really advertised well- if it wasn't for the dance studio, I would have never known about it.

The Fred Astaire studio had four floor shows throughout the afternoon, instructors with glitzy costumes and even glitzier moves. There were free group lessons and hours of just open social dancing. I met many other regulars of the studio and some handsome young bucks who came up from the salsa dance joint down the street. The weather was hot and so was the dancing.

I didn't see XUP, or maybe I did and just didn't know it (how would I know, unless she wore a big name tag?) However, I did keep an ear out for anyone mimicking unusual sounds, just in case.

It was the perfect way to celebrate and commemorate those who have faced cancer. It was also the best way ever to celebrate life, summer, dancing, and friends.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

There's a Party in the Streets!

This weekend, there's a massive street party in the Glebe! Free dance lessons, live music, stuff for the kids and all sorts of fun. This looks like a heck of a party! I'll be haunting the Fred Astaire Stage on Bank and Second. Will I see you there?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Taking a Deep Breath

For a week now, DH and his daughters have been in BC, visiting family. I was invited to join them, but for me, a quiet week with the house to myself is the best vacation ever. I declined the invitation.

This is the stuff holidays are made of, in my world. The house bears no trace of the family; no crumbs on the counter-top, no grubby fingerprints on the white fridge, no Wii or Barbie crap all over the basement. There is no pile of dress shirts on the settee in the bedroom, awaiting drop-off at the dry-cleaner. Everything is clean and tidy and in the place where it belongs.

The house is silent. No TV blaring just because, no persistent pop music whining out of the SD's rooms at all waking hours. CBC Radio 1, my good friend, has kept me company when I wanted stimulation.

I have eaten whatever I feel like this week; stuffed myself with salads and vegetables and fresh blueberries and toast for any and all meals of the day and strawberry protein shakes for dinner. I have drank gallons of tea and snacked on golden honey tomatoes and sugar snap peas straight from the garden.

I've stayed up late and slept in every day, despite the best efforts of two needy, hungry, and at times pissy cats. I have read two whole novels while sitting on the sunny front porch (Terry Brooks' Armageddon's Children and The Elves of Cintra), sustaining a wee sunburn while doing so but not sorry in the least.

I've set up a knitting station on the floor of the front room, and watched the last five episodes of Grey's Anatomy that I was saving for this holiday while finishing off the plain brown socks. I'm glad I was done knitting them by the end of the season finale, because I will admit to weeping freely when Derek and Meredith FINALLY got their act together. I've also watched a couple of episodes of Dark Angel (second season), Ghost in the Shell, and a lot of Sex and the City. Also a couple of those reality modelling shows. You know. Stuff I just can't watch with DH around.

I've played Guild Wars for a good couple of hours daily, just hacking about in Elona, working on my cartographer title as well as general game progression.

I've also clocked a load of time in the sewing room, working on my niece's quilt. I've started piecing the whole thing together, using the "grout" method from Reversible Quilts. I think it looks fantastic, and when you're quilting-as-you-go, the whole project just seems to move right along. I may be working on borders by day's end.

This afternoon is my last few hours of holiday. DH and the crew get back tonight and the house will again be filled with the delightful sound of children squabbling over everything and nothing, random piles of kid crap everywhere, meat, meat and more meat for meals, and total loss of control over the TV remote.

I think I have saved up enough Zen shui-shui from the last week to get me through a few days with equanimity. After that, there are no guarantees.

You must excuse me, I have a hot date with a sewing machine and CBC Radio 1. Got to store up a few more hours of shui-shui before the barbarian hordes descend.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quilting, Knitting, Painting and Stitching, Too.

I've been no slouch in the crafting department, either; it's just that nothing is near completion or terribly photogenic. All the same, here's what's going on in the sewing room.

These are so boring they make me want to weep, but in a few short months, I will be grateful I took the time to knit these knee-high, worsted weight ribbed socks. They're nothing fancy, for sure, but an essential all the same.


This is a whole lot fancier. Pretty much opposite from the socks, actually. It's Askew, done in Berroco Suede Deluxe for a lovely sparkle. This top also has so much negative ease planned in that it might actually be unwearable, but I'll keep plunking away. I have never finished a top before, so too small or not, this one's getting done. I hope it fits, it will be sexy as hell if so.


On to quilting. I'm still wading through the quilt I'm making for my niece. It's quite the work of art, if I do say so myself; reversible and quilted-as-I-go. Here's what I have so far, the "A" side.


A close-up of my quilting:


And with a square flipped over so you can see the "B" side:


I also painted the bed-side tables I talked about oh, a year ago. These were a dark emerald green that didn't go with anything. The decorator who chose our paint colours made me swear we'd get rid of the furniture before we painted... a little late, but the problem is being taken care of (complete with gratuitous cat tail.)


I've also done some cross-stitch. I used to be an avid stitcher, but quilting and knitting has taken over because I enjoy the added dimensions- cross-stitch is just so flat and ornamental. However, I have a lovely stash of fabric and patterns and I am determined not to ignore my first love. No pictures of that, because the progress is so small, but I'll keep plunking away and maybe one day you'll see a finished work.

Knit-Out and Garlic Fest

As far as you know, I've been up to absolutely nothing, because that's pretty much what I've blogged about recently. Truth is, I've been lazy... there's been a lot going on lately.

First there was the OKG Knit-Out at the Experimental Farm. The ever-present rain held off and we all had a lovely day, even my step-daughters, who were corralled into coming. Well, one asked if she could come, the other needed to be coerced to give my husband some much-needed "me" time.

A very patient knitter showing SD the Eldest the tricks of broomstick lace. This is the one who didn't want to come... she got really into it.


The other one loved it right from the get-go, and really enjoyed our Guild president's freakishly large needles.


Then, last weekend, my girlfriend Lisa and I headed out to Carp for the Garlic Festival. We went last year and discovered that the garlic they sell at the supermarket really can't compare to the fresh stuff. This year we went with the intent of purchasing a year's worth of garlic so as to never have to buy it from the supermarket again.



I think I must have bought 6 or 7 pounds of garlic... I hope it's enough. I intend to plant two varieties in the fall for my own personal harvest next summer.

After Carp came my own version of the garlic festival. Bruschetta, heavy on the feta and scapes, and quinoa tabbouleh with mint and parsley straight from my own garden. This is what summer is supposed to taste like.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ignore the Rhythm, If You Dare

DH and I went to another dance party on Thursday. This one was special, as it was to be our first floor show. We practiced for weeks, a snappy little swing routine to Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". We even threw in an extra lesson, just to polish. We had that routine down cold, including the fancy kicks at beginning and end.

Long story short- we blew it. We couldn't find the rhythm with a magnifying glass, despite our hours of practice. We shuffled about in the center of the floor, everyone looking at us and cheering us on gamely, me chanting out the rhythm, Wayne doing the best he could, and all of us wishing it was all over. The DJ turned down the music mercifully but we continued through grimly to the end of the routine.

It was painful, but finished. The upside is that it can only get better from there.

I leave you with a super catchy song from the dance party, by a European artist called Roisin Murphy. This is a samba; a dance that Wayne and I don't know yet, but our hips automatically want to respond to. Can you ignore this rhythm?

Ramalama (Bang Bang) - Roisin Murphy

Friday, August 1, 2008

Go Army

I was a camera store manager, years back, before I joined the military. I liked it, and was proud to have achieved the lofty heights of retail management in my early 20's. It came too easily, though, and there was really no more upward progression. I got bored and started looking for a harder challenge.

That's when I heard the Army recruiting ad on the radio. I remember that moment with crystal clarity, even what I wore that day. I stopped dead in my tracks, finished listening to the commercial, and when it was over, I turned off the radio and picked up the phone. Two minutes later I had made an appointment at the recruiting center. I had no idea what I wanted to do in the Army, but I knew it would be a challenge, whatever it was.

That summer they sent me out for Basic Training. I had joined as a Reservist- a weekend warrior- and my employer allowed me to take a leave of absence to attend. I loved Basic. Yes, it was hard physically- I'm a petite woman, not a runner, and there's no double standards for PT (physical training.) Women have to do everything that men do. Makes sense- bullets on a battlefield are no respecter of gender, but it really made things interesting.

The largest part of Basic Training was the mental games, and I wasn't intimidated by those. My upbringing, my job and my own constitution make me efficient, good at time management and confident. I rocked at that stuff.

I came home from Basic Training with a fiery love of the military in my veins. It has a precision and straight-forwardness that is so lacking in civilian life. Can't motivate someone in the military? Well, there's push-ups, kitchen duty, sweeping the parade square, extra drill and any number of extremely motivational techniques that may be applied, most with excellent effect. Can't motivate a civilian employee? Well, you could try a nice motivational talk, or say "please", or maybe even "pretty please".

I served for the next year on weekends, realizing with every parade that this was where I was meant to be. When the summer was coming up and I was due for my next training course- another 8 weeks in Kingston- my employer said I couldn't have the time off. Unfazed, and prepared, I pushed an envelope with my resignation in it across the table at him. I knew where I needed to be.

A while later, I went Regular Force- all Army, all the time. I was posted across the country from my Vancouver home, but met new family in my new units. The Reg Force is even more hard-core than the Reserves (as to be expected) and I loved it. The erect posture, the marching, the drill, the shouting, the one prescribed right way to do everything, the rank structure, the directness of speech, the possibilities to improve myself and learn... this all appealed enormously. Still does. And, as unusual as this is for a Canadian, I was - am- extremely proud to serve my country.

Today I was talking with some senior NCO's, and I voiced my rather strong opinion of a situation. One of them, a hard-core ex-Infanteer, laughed and called me "a good Army girl" 'cause I don't sugar-coat anything. I cherished this compliment, but at the same time, it makes me thoughtful.

I'm Army. I think I was pretty much made to be Army, and I don't think I'll ever really change. My already forceful personality was molded in ways I can't and don't want to undo. My penchant for neatness and tidiness has been honed to a fine point by kit inspections. My chiropractor says that I have "Army neck" from years of marching with chin up and shoulders straight.

And yet- within a few short months and after 14 years of service, I will be Army no more.

I'm not at all sure how a crusty, slightly damaged, sharp-tongued, model of efficiency, Army battle-axe like myself is going to do in the world as a civilian. I don't know what exactly will happen when you take the Army girl out of the Army. What will I have to be outrageously proud of, when I no longer play such a role? Who will I be, without that core part of my being?