Monday 21 October 2019

Me vs Camping

I've been camping for as long as I can remember. I grew up participating in things like Girl Guides and Scouting where we camped at least 3-4 times a year. Our family camped for two weeks every summer in various locations around the province, and now as an adult we take our kids camping.

My style of camping, however, has morphed quite a lot over time into something that is less tenting adventure, and more of a solid, animal attack reduction enclosure.

For years our family camped in a tent until one fateful trip when my mom declared at two in the morning that we would never tent again. To be fair, it had begun raining around one am, and the term "torrential" doesn't do it nearly the justice it deserves. I would consider using "biblical downpour" instead.  This meant that for all future trips we rented a tent trailer, because somehow adding the term "trailer" to it made it less tent-y.

Me trying to look organized while not doing that
Camping with my parents was amazing, and I have so many great memories from those trips. My mother has to be the single most organized camper that has ever lived, and I'm constantly struggling to achieve that level of tidyness when camping.  I haven't yet and don't truly expect to.

Those family trips were an organizational polar opposite to camping with Guiding or Scouting. I mean, of course it threw 5-8 teenages at a campsite with limited oversight....what could possibly go wrong? There are days I look back and wonder how we didn't get eaten by a bear or simply die of exposure. We were the worst campers. We had a blast, but the stupidity was unparalleled.

When camping with Guides, for example, you were not allowed to swim or play in the water unless you had a certified lifeguard. We never had that. Ever. But of course the closest campground, and our location of choice, was right beside a huge lake with beautiful creeks running into it, and on a hot summer day, this was torture. We were early teens and our leaders were amazing. They (perhaps imprudently) gave us a fair amount of freedom, and we took it happily. On the day in question, a couple of us decided that we would go for a hike; we let them know our plans and headed off. The only rule was: don't go in the water.

 Along the way it got hot and we decided that it wouldn't hurt if we just stuck our feet in the creek for a harm, no foul. No one would even know...until my friend fell into the creek.  There's very little hope of playing innocent when you return to your site dripping wet.

Although looking back this girl was a bit accident prone.....she once walked into the cross beam of a swing set and broke her nose, burned her hand fairly badly on a lantern, and fell into (another) river all in the same night. Just saying.

She also provided me the most ridiculous camping anecdote I've ever heard. 

Before I impart her wisdom, however, you need to know that I love being outside, sitting around campfires, hiking, and hanging out with friends, but I hate being outside in the dark. The peaceful forest turns into a nightmarish playground where every sound it a lurking animal waiting to pounce. It keeps me up at night. Every night.  Being in a camper, even our tiny trailer that is almost as old as I am, is a huge improvement over a tent, but I still hear every sound. And I will wake you up to ask if you hear it too. I'm not sure what I think that will accomplish, but it happens anyway.

And just so we're all on the same page, tents are not protection. They are a light film allows you to pretend that nothing is out there, because you can't see it. A toddler with a sharp stick could take out a tent wall....a bear would have exactly zero difficulty getting in. 
Our toddler showing off
the tent/bear take out container that she could
easily demolish if she put her mind to it

But I digress.  It was on a camping trip with my friend that I heard something crashing around in the bushes. We'd long since gone to bed, and she was, I assume, sleeping. I was not. I was imagining the thousands of blood thirsty creatures that were screened from view by our pathetically small tent. And I may have been a little concerned. 

So, because misery loves company, I woke her up to tell her we were going to die.  She sat up, looked me dead in the eye and said "There's nothing out there. All nocturnal animals go to bed at midnight." And then she went back to sleep.

Ummm....I have a question about the definition of nocturnal.

But amazingly, at the time I didn't, and so I shrugged and went to sleep. Teenage logic is stupid. 

And so, if you're ever camping and wonder if you're safe in the forest at night, just remember, as long as it's after midnight, you'll be fine. All the nocturnal animals have gone to bed. 

Sweet dreams.

Monday 24 June 2019

Me vs Being a Horse?

My sister is getting married soon, so I thought what better time to relive some warm sisterly memories than right now.

As I've discussed in the past, my sister is revoltingly talented. What she wasn't as a child, however, was capable of walking like a human being.  For reasons only a 9 year old would understand, her and her friend wanted to be horses. Not to ride horses, but to BE horses.

And what does being a horse encompass you ask? Let me tell you. It means offering to hitch yourself up to large logs in order to pull them like a draft horse. It means perfecting your horse noises (Neigh!). It also, more importantly, means walking and running on all fours. Horses don't walk on two legs after all.

And so they practiced. And they got good. And my sister, who excels in most things, also excelled in this. Over time, the two girls developed a loping kind of canter, a smooth-ish walk, and an ungainly but surprisingly quick gallop, all of which were done on all fours, with legs and arms extended to their fullest. There were times when I truly believed that my sister could move faster on four legs than on two.

As an older sister, the single best part of this for me was that over time they performed these equine feats so frequently that they would appear to forget what they were doing and just drop into horse stance. Anywhere. Literally ANYWHERE.

I would be walking home from school with my sister and suddenly she would drop to all fours and run.  It seemed  like anytime she started running like a human, there was at least a 40% chance that she would end the run in horse mode. From where I was standing, it was a completely subconscious choice to do this, and it was absolutely hysterical.

My unqualified favourite time this happened was at the local ice rink. We were at public skating, just going around in endless circles when it happened. I guess at some point we achieved critical horse speed, because out of nowhere my sister dropped automatically into horse stance and tried to run. 

Now if you've ever experienced ice, you'll know that it isn't known for it's traction. Horses, as a rule, also don't often wear ice skates. Ice, combined with skates designed to glide on ice, and the act of not actually being a horse created a trifecta of disaster which saw my sister face planting on the ice after taking about 2 to 3 loping gallops in public. She wasn't hurt, and I enjoyed the spectacle immensely. 

I can tell this story now, because my sister has not been a horse in years, and recently got back from winning a world championship medal with Team Canada's women's paddling team. I'm very proud of her, but I also like closing my eyes and remembering that while she may be athletic and talented now, there was once a time that she tried to run like a horse on the ice and failed spectacularly. Neigh!

Friday 21 June 2019

Me vs The Utter Joylessness of Adulting

So it's been a bit more than a cup of coffee since I've sat down to write anything. I've got a thousand reliable excuses, but the reality is I'm just tired, frustrated, and binge eating m&ms while watching Netflix.  

I think a large part of it is that adulting has been steadily chipping away at the armor of my sanity for the last 4 years. In all my time as a homeowner, I've never had even half of the problems we've had since moving here, and it's breaking me down.

I'll caveat this by saying that I realize that my complaints are for the most part solidly first world problems....except the water issues, those throw me down a few "world" levels. We've been very fortunate to be healthy and generally happy as a family. 
That said, our problems are still problems. They're still draining emotionally, physically, and financially, and it sucks.  

Besides being set upon annually by ants, ticks, wasps, mosquitoes, and a very persistent bear intent upon tearing apart my garden boxes one by one, the house itself seem to dislike having people living in it.

The water situation feels barely liveable some days. We're constantly fighting sediment gumming up 
fixtures and appliance, and have had what feels like endless water depletions, as one tap or another won't shut off because some bloody part of it has been worn down by grit.

We do have enough water to basically run the house, but the well we dug to increase the capacity went...poorly. (read about the unstoppable shit show here), and we've decided to give up after paying some jackass more money than I care to think about, for what amounts to an unsightly pipe in my yard. At least we have sufficient water for the house. Small miracles.

We also decided recently to get a high quality (read: expensive) filtration system so that the water doesn't smell and taste quite so terrible, and the persistent sediment is removed. I've had more fart showers than anyone should have to endure, and I'd like to come out of the bath feeling cleaner than I went in for fuckig once.  It would also be lovely if the water coming out of my tap didn't kill fish.  I don't even like fish, but I feel like if the fish can't survive in the water, I probably shouldn't be consuming it either.

The system went in and for a glorious 2 weeks I had relaxing, fart-free showers. It was the best of times....and then it ended. The $&%$ing system began leaking just enough to be defective, but not wrong enough to get the repair guy in quickly. So for a week and a half I just changed out the towels at the bottom of the tank every couple of days so it didn't form pools. Eventually the guy made it back into town and "fixed" the system, however to date, the tank still leaks and for reasons that I can't explain, I'm back to fart showers. 

And then one deceptively quiet evening, three large wall tiles gave up the ghost mid shower. They came right off fucking the wall in my hands. It seems they'd been loose for some time, as behind them was a colourful selection of mold and moist drywall bits. Of course now I'm terrified that I've been inhaling mold spores for the last few year.  I've also developed a cough.  I'm quite surprised I'm still alive.
And as one would expect, the builder has politely requested that we pound sand.

But it doesn't end there....

Our first camping trip of the summer saw the fridge in our trailer, which had worked flawlessly all last year, conk out in a very permanent way. The toilet also backed up, and I can't begin to explain how that happened, as it's basically just a hole you shit in with a tank underneath. 

We also got rid of a lot of our garden, as I can't keep plants alive (which is a whole issue in and of itself), and we had a beautiful rock fountain put in. It is stunning (and just to be clear, I have no complaints about the person who put it in). 
And it worked for about 3 weeks. 
Again, for reasons that escape me, the pump does not pump. You plug it in and exactly nothing happens until you take it OUT of the water, at which point it sputters back to life. Put it back in the water and it goes completely dead. This is roughly the EXACT GODDAMN OPPOSITE of what a WATER PUMP is supposed to do. 

And my cat just puked on the carpet. I'm not even making that up. 

I quit.

Monday 4 February 2019

Me vs A Lack of Foresight When Dressing for the Weather

Some days you just don't want to put on pants. On those days, you need to ask yourself "should I put on pants though?"
In my case, the answer should be yes. Always. Unfortunately, so often it's no. Because apparently I never learn.

Just over a year ago, my car went off the road into a ditch as I was driving home. Long story short, I was in my pyjamas, the zipper on my jacket broke, and my 3 year old wasn't wearing shoes. It was -20 outside, I had to walk home, and there was snow. I should have worn pants.  My neighbour who towed me out of the ditch probably also thought I clinically insane. (Read the whole saga here)

Fast forward to the present. 

We have snow, but it has rained more than average for the season. Overnight, the rain freezes, and turns the road into an ice rink. On the day in question, my husband texted me in the morning to let me know the roads were slippery. I should have put on pants to take the kids to school. I did not. 

In my hubris, I threw a jacket on over my pyjamas, put on some boots that I now realize look very much like slippers, and I drove the kids to the bus stop about 4 kms from our house.  I had zero problems. 

Academically I knew it was icy. I could see the sheen. But my vehicle with it's 4 wheel drive and studded tires handled it like a champ. Rocky music was playing in the background.

Like a normal, sleep deprived parent, I waited in my car with the kids at the bus stop. No one besides the kids needed to witness my state of makeup-free undress, and frankly they're pretty used to me in pyjama pants. Honestly, why wear anything else if you don't have to.

That said, I do have a bar. I believe that if you have to go out into the world and interact with other functioning adults, you should be wearing pants. Dropping kids at a bus stop does not require interaction, hence no pants required. This works 98% of the time.

On this day, it did not work.

I got to the top of my road, which is at the top of a rather steep and winding hill. There were a few trucks parked up there and one of the drivers hopped out and flagged me down. He proceeded to tell me that I probably shouldn't go down, as the hill was a sheet of ice, and 3 cars had already tried and had failed spectacularly at staying on the road. One truck was currently laying on it's side up against a tree, and after seeing it I can only say that it's a miracle no one was seriously hurt.

Logically I knew I was stuck at the top of the hill, it wasn't worth the risk to attempt to go home, however all I could think to say to this kind man trying to make sure I didn't get myself killed was "But I need to go home, I'm not wearing pants".

I have a way with words.

One of my coworkers happened to show up on the scene shortly after I did, and was professional enough not to make too many jokes at my expense. I explained that I needed to get home and put some actual clothes on, as I had things to do in town, and that I was weighing the pros and cons of hiking overland rather than following the road. 
My husband, who maps things for a living, wanted
me to tell you he had no part in the drawing of this shitty map.
Also, this map is not even remotely to scale. 
Pro: I figured that it would cut 45 mins off the hike, as the road went down the hill and then back up the other side of the little valley, and I planned to cut directly across through the forest. This would also allow me to avoid walking along the icy road, where I was pretty sure my tractionless slipper-boots would see me on my ass frequently.

Con: There was an excellent chance that hiking alone through the forest would result in my getting eaten by a cougar.

For reasons that still elude me, my saint-like coworker offered to hike into the forest with me to find my house and make sure that I didn't become breakfast for a large cat along the way.  So off we went, headed in the general direction I figured my house was in; me in my pyjamas and slipper boots, and him dressed like a normal person who was humoring a crazy person on an unplanned hike through the forest first thing in the morning.  

About 10 minutes into our unplanned adventure, I heard quietly behind me "You've come this way before, right?"

Conceptually yes.
But seriously, we go in a straight line. It should work.  And thankfully, shortly thereafter we came over a hill and there was the house. I definitely owe this guy a coffee on our next shift. 

I quickly got my shit together and we hiked back to the road and our vehicles. I carried on with the rest of my day until I decided enough time had passed to allow for the road crews to transform the rink into a road again. Crisis mostly averted. 

So the moral of this story is that you should always wear clothes when you leave the house or you may end up hiking through a forest in pyjamas with a coworker who will probably bring it up in conversation at some future team building event. 

And to really bring the story full circle, I'm also fairly sure that the pyjama pants I wore the last time I was stranded in the snow were the same ones I was stranded in this time. Might be time for a new pair....these ones seem cursed.