Bittersweet Transition: Why I will miss Huron County

shores of an Ontario lake

My time as a resident of Huron County is rapidly ticking away: only four  sleeps left!

As excited as I am to move in with Johnathan and have our own place together with out own backyard and laundry room, and as much as I anticipate being able to regularly visit specialty grocery stores and discover new restaurants and take the bus or a bike instead of my car, I will miss rural life.

a backyard party

A backyard party with lots of yard... and a tent trailer

There are many aspects of life in Huron County that make this transition bittersweet. First, there’s that sense of community that is only possible in small towns and rural areas. I’m talking about when you can count on knowing a percentage of every group and gathering, or on running into someone you know in every store and on every street.

Then there are the small stores where you know the owner and at least a part of their personal story and they recognize you and maybe know your name.

Out of the Storm

After last August's tornado, Goderich held a fundraiser concert called Out of the Storm. It took up half the downtown square, and everyone we knew was there!

Small-town events are the highlight of each season, like Goderich’s Winterfest or Clinton’s Pluckinfest or annual beer tents and parades. That’s not to mention the stag and does/buck and does/Jack and Jills that happen every weekend from April through Thanksgiving in every town, and where you can expect to meet up with friends new and old and be greeted with the same selection of cheap domestic beer and plastic cups with shots of vodka, rye, and rum await ice and Coke.

I will also miss the vistas. Yep, I used the word vista. For example, I live across from a corn field. It likely sounds boring, but I love being able to look out my big dining room window and see not other houses, but corn almost as far as the eye can see, or a snowy field, with a line of evergreens at the far side of the field.

winter sunrise out my window

Who could forget the proximity to the beach? One of the very best parts about Huron County and one of the things that I missed the most when I lived in Mexico is how you can get to the beach of one of North America’s biggest lakes in less than half an hour. Huron County is Ontario’s West Coast, after all! Did you know that several of Lake Huron’s beaches have earned the Blue Flag organization’s designation of quality beaches? Yes, we’re proud, and rightly so.

What I will probably miss the most is that certain smell. It’s clean, fresh, slightly sweet, and I believe it’s unique to Huron County. But I could be wrong. If you haven’t experienced it, you won’t know what you’re missing. Having been raised on it, that smell is home to me. Nothing about having my own house in the city could replace that scent.

Luckily, Huron County is only a relatively short drive away, and I have plenty of reasons to visit.

Flo on a rainy road

My '52 Chevy, Flo, on a rainy country road

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{Cheers!} to the newest member of the 30s club

Justin

This photo was taken at my big party last summer and then made into a life-sized cardboard cutout for last night's party. NBD.

Last night, we joined about 50 other people in surprising Justin for his 30th birthday. We dressed up in as much gold and silver as we could find, and spent the evening enjoying the homemade delicacies prepared by Coastal Coffee Company‘s Ben and Bree Gingerich (I’m SOOO glad my Whole30 break fell on this weekend!).

Party food extraordinaire

Party food extraordinaire (Yep, I took a diet break... more on that soon)

30 is a bit of a turning point in life, I think, so you might as well do it in style. Justin and his wife Hayley (the mastermind) did not disappoint.

My pictures do, however, disappoint. My apologies.

All I can give you is a tiny glimpse into what was really a great party. A night full of catching up with old friends, solidifying acquaintances, and making new connections. A chance to enjoy some fabulous culinary and decor skills. An opportunity to admire the cocktail outfits we never get to see on our friends.

Party animal wannabes

Party animal wannabes

And a time for me to forget the zombie that the next two weeks will make of me as I slog through four papers due within 5 days of each other (Yes, feel bad, it’s gonna be hell).

Meanwhile, today is the last day of my “break” before starting another Whole30, and I have pretty much fallen off the wagon. Either that or I’m testing my body’s tolerance for eating things I used to love, to see whether I still do love them, and whether I think I can live without them. The jury is still out, but perhaps after tonight’s as-healthy-as-I-can-manage-while-still-including-flour-and-cheese pizza, I’ll know better.

TTFN.

He's kind of a big deal

“Stripping truth down to its original lie”

stripping truth down to its original lie.

My friend Keeley is one of my favourite people to talk with for hours. We sit in cafés and talk about the things we are learning, and we connect new ideas with old ones as we help each other round out our understanding of the world.

Keeley is a writer, too, but of a different kind. She is a poet, able to capture unique glimpses of humanity in lines and stanzas.

Recently, Keeley wrote this beautiful and thought-provoking poem that really resonates with me:

reaching-poem

I have often felt like I am broken. Like what I really am is only a reflection of what I present to the world. Like I need to lie to continue to breathe, to cope.

I often felt like this in the months before and after my mom died in 2008.

Feelings like the ones “Reaching” evokes are also similar to the ones that led to my leaving the church several years ago. Falsity. A sense of shallowness. “Masquerading honesty”. “Skewed perception”. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe all church communities are like this. Mine was. Too many are.)

Go back and read Keeley’s poem again, if you can. It’s so nuanced and insightful.

I want to say more about this poem, but I am afraid of not doing Keeley’s words justice.

So I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Gratitude á la First World

McCafe $1 off

This is not a promo. I repeat, this is not a promo.

I am grateful for being a Canadian, a citizen of a country where I am free to do so many things people of other countries cannot.

I am grateful for OSAP, which makes it possible for me to go to university, even though I will have debt after I graduate.

I am grateful for the technology which allows me to communicate with family and friends far and wide.

I am grateful for the chance to have a voice about things that matter, should I so choose to take it.

I am grateful for Tax-Free Savings Accounts.

I am grateful for nieces.

I am grateful for cousins.

I am grateful for freedom of speech, even though I have recently learned few things are as democratic as they sound.

I am grateful for good old-fashioned bacon and eggs.

I am grateful to be from a rural, agricultural area: farmers truly do feed cities.

I am grateful to know many truly talented people, and to be able to celebrate them in their successes.

I am grateful to have friends on at least 4 continents.

I am grateful for friends that I can have deep, thoughtful conversations with.

I am grateful for the knowledge that I will never run out of books to read.

I am grateful for the many resources I have to help me be healthy.

I am grateful for McDonald’s’ $1-off McCafe days, in competition with Tim Horton’s Roll-up-the-Rim, especially since, believe it or not, McD’s is currently the best place to go to study in my hometown!

Celebrations: Birthdays and Best Friends

I know that I’ve been posting “Celebration” posts on Sundays, but sometimes there’s a good reason to switch it up.

BFF

Us a year ago, celebrating Gina's birthday

A best friend is a good reason.

Today, my bestie has a birthday. I’d tell you how old she’s turning, but it’s impolite to discuss a lady’s age.

I met Gina when we were 19. I won’t tell you how long ago that was…. but it wasn’t recently.

We were bunk mates in a fifth-floor room of a concrete building in Monterrey Mexico, participants in a missions training course with YWAM. Unfortunately for Gina, I was on the top bunk. I had a penchant for snacking late at night, and putting hard objects (books and picture frames) under my pillow. Gina would wake up to find crumbs and my boyfriend’s face on her pillow. Sorry, G!

The following year, we found ourselves roommates in a nearby apartment. That was probably where our friendship was forged, over taxi rides and grocery-shopping and quesadilla-making. We took those quesadillas with us when we left Mexico. I introduced them to my family, and then my boyfriend, and then his family. Sometime after my strict no-grains, no-cheese, no-beans diet, I hope to introduce them to my boyfriend’s friends, too. My siblings ask for them for their birthday dinners sometimes. Mmmm, melted cheddar and refried beans with salsa in a toasted tortilla!

(Side note: I just had to add “quesadilla” to my WordPress dictionary. Shame.)

We were in Mexico together for about four and a half years, one or two of those years of which she was my boss. And my best friend. Not the easiest relationship, but we made it through. We experienced a lot of life together: traveling through Mexico and the USA several times, gained and lost love, soul-searching, uncertainty, victory. We translated, drove vans, hiked through mud, did skits in the rain, played with kids, cooked, cleaned, sang, and so much more.

Friends

One of our birthday gatherings last year

Then, I moved home and then to Hawaii to work on a different project with the same organization, and then home again. She stayed in Mexico for a while, then moved to Maryland.

Every year, we try to get together at least once. Last year we were lucky enough to see each other three times! Each time, it’s as if no time has passed. We spend hours talking about our days in Mexico, reminiscing and catching up on the latest gossip about our former co-workers.

This time last year, another friend and I surprised her by showing up at a work lunch in Maryland. I wish I could be there this today, but G, you’ll just have to accept this blog as a birthday gift instead.

Happy birthday, Gina! Here’s to many more years of happiness and friendship. I love you!

Glamparella

Glamping. Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of it. It’s all the rage among the fashion-forward, upwardly-mobile, and comfort-inclined, ie; Me.

For the ignorant:

Glamping: (n.) Glamorous Camping. (adj.) A form of camping in which the participants enjoy amenities usually associated with five-star accommodations.

Having decided that I should become a Glamper, I did a little preliminary research, and was not disappointed. I found that Glamping, despite it’s very “now” moniker, is actually a throw-back to those African safari camps of the early 1920’s.

Picture large white canvas tents with wide awnings, Persian carpets, king-size beds, dressing and wash rooms, antique furniture, china dishes, oil lanterns casting a warm glow everywhere, and perhaps a tame tiger cub on a fluffy mat in the corner.

Now add colour to the tent, electrical outlets to supply those “oil” lanterns (not to mention our espresso makers, margarita blenders, flat-irons, and iPod docks), and trade the tiger cub for a mini-bar, and you’ve got modern Glamping!

Some people are Glam-purists: they refuse to take any electronics with them, and instead plan to observe the beauty of nature from their comfortable oases. Others consider their Glamp-site to be a Four Seasons without walls and expect every possible convenience, including spa treatments, baby- and dog-sitting services, and gourmet chefs. I’d consider myself in the first group, with the addition of a FEW electronics, namely an espresso maker, a coffee-grinder, a cell-phone charger (I’d keep it on vibrate and in my tent), and my laptop on which to write and maybe watch movies.

It seems that the rich and famous have a natural head start on us regular folk, but I hope to find some fellow Glamparellas who are willing to pay a little more for equipment, haul a little more weight to the site, and scorn, just a tiny bit, the tradition of “hard-core” camping (read: canned food, instant coffee, damp bedding, flimsy mattresses that allow you to get familiar with every bump and crevice of the forest floor, etc.) in favour of comfort, good food, a bottle of wine or two, and hours spent with our feet up with a good book, in the open air and sunshine.

Tell me that doesn’t sound heavenly!

On Being Single, Living Alone, and Having Hardly any Single Friends

1. Your back gets patchily tanned and/or burned.

2. There is a distinct lack of motivation to wash the dishes.

3. Nudity can happen frequently at home.

4. Solitude aplenty. Solitude in abundance. Solitude to the extreme!

5. 10 AM seems bright and early.

6. Going alone to the beach is unavoidable.

7. Clothes, magazines, shopping bags, wine bottles, bags of chips, iPod cables, newspapers, mail, and water bottles on the floor in every room is just normal.

8. No one reminds you when you’re road-raging about that tailgater that you just committed the same offense on the way home yesterday.

9. You can drink water, wine, OJ, and coffee every day for a month without running out of clean glasses (at least, I can).

10. Never mind the old adage that you should take off one piece of jewellery before you leave the house; in my case, I have some I can’t put on before I meet up with other people.

11. The things you have in common with your girlfriends (now married with children) grow less and less. And less (something just happened as I wrote this that really drove the point home).

12. Stigmas about Old Maidendom get closer to home, whether in your eyes or others’.

13. Wanting to go out means you either a) scrape together the nerve to go by yourself (not likely); b) wait until that one single friend you have is available on a Saturday night; or c) play the anti-social card. Again.

14. Items of clothing with buttons up the back are, sadly, not for you.

15. You’re the first person people think of when someone asks them for a pet-sitter or house-sitter.

16. Without a man, you really have no idea how to care for your car and just hope nothing happens.

17. No one helps you dig your way out of your driveway in winter.

18. You can only have Housewarming parties so many times. Besides that, what can a single girl register for to get stuff like engaged and expecting girls do?

19. Fashion means more to you.

20. The baby behaviour, baby stuff, baby growth, baby names, and baby care references get old when you’re the only one without a baby.

21. Master of the fake smile you are.

22. You fear the cat-lady reference yet admit to being a candle-lady.

23. Eating in is a novelty.

24. Cooking for one isn’t. You begin to long for NYC, where everything can be delivered. Or, perhaps, to hire someone just to have someone else to cook for.

25. Plant-and-candle lady?

26. Things stay where you put them. Ordinarily.

27. You flip-flop between wanting to nest and wishing you’d never stopped to roost.

28. No one cares what time you come in at, and no one cares what time you come in at.

29. Only you face the consequences for too much shopping.

30. There’s no one to blame for anything else, either.

Life in the H.C., Part 3: Bar Fights and Deep Fried Mars Bars

Tonight I joined the friend who made my birthday special on an excursion to make her birthday special. Looking hot, we met up with some of her friends (and her sister, who is closer to my age then my friend is, yay) and headed to a popular bar in the other big town in the H.C. (other than Goderich, obviously), Grand Bend.

One of my weaknesses is that I’m often uncomfortable in new situations, new places, and with new people, especially when I don’t know what to expect. If I have someone whose side I can cling to, I do alright, then once I get used to the situation or the layout of the place, I’m fine. Usually.

I’m less comfortable in places where people are more likely to boldly (drunkenly) talk to you or single you out. If I’m simply blending in, that’s one thing, but looking hot in a huge place packed with drunk horny people on a long holiday weekend is terrifying! If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have gone, but then I would’ve missed the drama!

So there’s a zillion people in this place, people lined up around the building waiting to get in. It’s Jam Night, so there’s live music that’s not necessarily wonderful, and inconsistent. There are several self-important beefed-up security dudes allowing people into the building in small groups, after checking everyone’s ID. Telling them we’re with a birthday girl doesn’t work for us at all.

Once inside, our group was split up by the layout of the place and the sheer multitude of people inside it, constantly moving. I didn’t even see the bar the whole evening because I wasn’t brave enough to fight through the 5-deep crowd buzzing around it. I was so overwhelmed by the noise and the people and the strange place that I wanted to leave as soon as I got in, but stuck it out anyway.

Two of us found a couple of stools in a very busy passageway and claimed them, our knees getting very familiar with strangers without any input of ours whatsoever. We chatted and sang along a bit, and sipped our drinks, but mostly kept squishing backwards in our chairs to get out of the way as much as we could.

We had gotten a little sick of the constant surge of scantily-clad tipsy youngsters when a garbage can came through one of the floor-to-ceiling windows beside the stage, about 20 feet from us, shattering two layers of glass and drawing the attention of 450 people. The band members were instantly bounding over tables and chairs and people and out an emergency exit to catch the punk while we just watched, stunned. Then there were cops and security guards with headsets. Hundreds of people stared and milled about, and we had a great view.

As soon as the band was back on stage and playing again and things were calming down, a fight broke out in front of the stage that had the musicians trying to play their instruments with one hand and slap the idiots with the other. The Macho Macho Bouncers shoved a group of people out the door as the singer yelled obscenities through the microphone (“Will the $&#^ing psychos get the $^@& out NOW?!”). The crowd started chanting along with him.

After all this, I figure I’m safe to trek to the washroom. Arriving to the lineup unscathed, it wasn’t till I was almost done my business that the yelling and the mighty mighty F-bomb made their way to the doorway across from the ladies room. More beefy bouncers herding bombed bar-goers away from the head case who was apparently still trying

MYOB

My sister used to say that when we were asking questions she didn’t want to answer: “MYOB!!” (Mind Your Own Business) Who could say what inspired her. I can’t remember if she would have been old enough to be familiar with the acronym BYOB, but I’m guessing so.

We used to laugh and ignore her. At least, I don’t remember paying much attention, busy and snobby older sister that I was. Still, her silly acronym stuck with us, or with me, I should say, not able to speak for the rest of my siblings.

I had a conversation with a friend earlier this week, about an experience of hers that falls under the category of topics to which one might wish to reply with an indignant and more-than-a-little-impatient “MYOB!!!!!” (to all of my friends who are mothers: this is a third-party rant, her experience, as shared with me, embellished perhaps a tiny bit, not me claiming first-hand knowledge!)

Lu is pregnant, due in August. Like most women who are expecting, her belly is expanding, along with some other womanly parts.

Because pregnancy has to do with the miracle of life and everyone loves babies and if a woman can’t have her own she wants a piece of someone else’s and if a woman has already had her own she thinks she knows everything there is to know or even if a woman hasn’t had her own but her adopted daughter has she is entitled to claim the experience as her own and therefore freely dispense advice and unsolicited comments, Lu often gets told she’s big. And that she looks bigger today. And they thought she’d look bigger by now. And wow, that top makes her look so big!

Then there are the well-meaning but perhaps slightly overbearing grandparents and older siblings who insist she needs more onesies. And a high chair. And those special educational toys. And a set of bottles of all shapes and sizes, just to be prepared. And thingamabobs and whatchamacallits and whosits and whatsits galore!

(insert breath here)

Don’t let me forget the day she threw on a maternity shirt she’d purchased a few years ago, just to have something to cover her growing belly with. Everyone told her she looked cute in the flowered baby doll top which definitely covered her growing belly. Feeling un-cute, she however decided to accept the praise for what it seemed to be and feel cute as well. Imagine her chagrin when she caught a glimpse of herself in a shop window, only to find that the garment in question made her look like a mix between a beached whale and a 12-year-old. Cute? What were they thinking?!

And just once, couldn’t someone please start a conversation with her that isn’t solely inspired by her thick middle? Or ask her how she’s doing, instead of simply using her as a channel to get a baby fix?

Despite the miracle of procreation, people, shame on us for forgetting the woman in our haste to welcome her offspring.

MYOfreakin’B!!

A Short Post

Simply because I haven’t posted for a while, and now that I have high-speed, I really don’t have an excuse not to!

I’m currently sitting at Coffee Culture, my town’s newest addition… a place that’s downtown, is open later than 5:00 pm, and has free wireless! Now if only it actually had decent coffee, I’d be pleased as punch. Still, I’m kinda glad to have a very valid reason to keep frequenting my regular cafe, The Bean, which is conveniently just a few doors down from here, for what is, in my opinion, the best coffee in town: a double Americano.

I think it’s time for an update on my NBS (Numb Bum Syndrome) condition… been a while since I wrote about that. It continues. I gave up on taking Advil all the time and sitting on my donut cushion. I probably should go back to the Advil to fight the inflammation. I’ll start now. There. Two regular strength pills. We’ll see what that does. Let me just say, I’m glad that my job keeps me mostly on my feet, and that my vehicle has great lumbar-supportive seats.

I’ve become even more addicted to Facebook, if that’s possible, what with Facebook mobile and recently having posted lots of pictures. 118 comments later, which all came to my phone… I’m regretting the mobile notifications, haha.

Okay, now I’m just rambling. It’s time for me to go, anyway, and help K and A have a very happy birthday!

Ciao for now.