If I Had a Million Dollars…

…I’d buy your lo-o-ove!

Not really.

Off the top of my head, I think I might:

  • Pay for my entire education
  • Put my sister through school to be a Registered Massage Therapist
  • Go back to visit Hawaii and Mexico and Norway, etc., and maybe take my family to one of those places
  • Travel to the UK and Australia and New Zealand and Italy and France and Greece (you get the picture)
  • Buy some stocks
  • The wise thing to do would be to put it in the bank first and start letting it earn interest, and then pay for all of the above things out of the interest, but the wise thing wasn’t the first thing that came to my mind.
  • Buy a house, fix it up, and perhaps rent part of it out to pay the mortgage payments
  • Is there any left?
  • If so, I’d start an authentic Mexican-food restaurant somewhere along Lake Huron and maybe bring in one of my Mexican friends to guarantee that it’s authentic! And, of course, to stay and make tortillas.
  • Not gonna lie, I’d buy some brown leather “riding” boots
  • And I wouldn’t wait for my BlackBerry contract to expire before getting the biggest and prettiest iPhone there is
  • I’d hire someone to review and delete all the spam comments that are in the “comments waiting to be moderated” section of this website. Blech.
  • Is there still some left?
  • I’d buy one of those sweet mesh ergonomic office chairs that you could just live in, or at least they look like you could!
  • I’d buy a newer Toyota 4Runner, one without cracks in the dashboard or worn spots in the paint or dents in the bumper from where my little brother backed into a post. The only flaw I’d accept would be coffee pre-staining under the cupholder, because heaven knows I’m only going to add to them!
  • Oh yeah, and buy a lifetime subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio so that I can listen to the CBC wherever, whenever, forever!
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Life in the H.C., Part 4: Dangerous Drivers, aka: Cocky Buggers

Dear Huron County Driver,

I’d like to say you know who you are, but I am not at all sure you do. Here’s a clue: if you see no problem following the car in front of you so closely that you can dig earwax out of the driver’s ear, I might be talking to you. Or if you think those bumper stickers that begin with the phrase, “If you can read this…” are part of some sort of literacy outreach program, I might be talking to you.

Even with my amazing new snow tires, it seems only prudent to me, seeing as how I value my life, to exercise caution when driving on snowy roads. When I say “exercise caution”, I am mostly referring to slowing down below the speed limit (If you’re saying “What?! Who DOES that?!” I am definitely talking to YOU!) and occasionally taking my foot off the gas pedal or, heaven forbid, even braking every now and again!

I understand there are some people who didn’t get the chance (or simply didn’t bother) to take Driver’s Ed, and they might try to use this as their excuse for believing that driving 3 feet behind the car ahead of them is okay, but I’m here to tell them it’s SO not! Did they really want to be collateral damage if I hit an invisible snow drift?

It boggles my mind how some people drive in winter, and, honestly, it scares me. I don’t care who you are or what driving super-powers you may have, I believe I have a right to peace of mind on the roads. If you’re driving behind me, I expect you to respect that. When I flash my brake lights a few times at you, please take the hint: “Back off! I’m uncomfortable with you being all up in my grill!” If you don’t get it the first time, my attitude toward you will NOT improve, and, in the privacy of my own vehicle, I’ll be saying mean things about you, and my impatient brake-light flashes will mean, “Hey jerk! You may not value your life but I do mine! Back the h— off!!”

Yours in fear of her life and limb til the snow departs,

Sarah Koopmans

A Day in My Life, June 2008

I had a sudden desire today to chronicle and compare the different stages of my life, as I look back and notice that my life in June 2008 is remarkable different from that of June 2007, June 2006, June 2005, and so on.

I invite you to be a witness on this journey.

June 2008 finds me 27 years old, living in a two-bedroom second-floor apartment in the only apartment building in a tiny town in East Huron County called Brucefield. This town is known for it’s flashing light, yellow if you’re driving between Clinton and Exeter on Highway 4, or red if you’re coming from either Seaforth or Bayfield. There is one elementary school, one church, one drive-in restaurant, two mechanic shops, one Asian/Home Decor/B&B/Lunch Room location, and one fire station.

My apartment overlooks a cornfield, the view of which is mostly obstructed by a lovely birch tree. Said tree helps me feel more confident walking around in my apartment in less-than-decent clothing on summer nights. After all, who would be driving by slowly enough whose gaze could penetrate the birch branches in the split second I happen to be passing through my dining room, several feet from my beautiful picture window?

I enjoy living alone, though sometimes I do wish someone was there to care whether I came in or not, or to wonder where I was, or to motivate me to do dishes, finally! My neighbours are understanding and quiet, the area is safe, and I actually have a place to call home. MY home. I’ve immensely enjoyed painting and decorating my apartment, putting all of my good taste to good use in a place where I’m the boss, now and forever.

Another addition to my life is that of Trixie the Toyota, a pretty, dark-green 1997 4Runner who goes with me everywhere I go. She hauls the accoutrements of my life and hobbies without complaint. She has survived being rolled over in the ditch after skidding out on an icy country road, being hit-and-run by some unknown person, a not-so-successful attempt at backing up a trailer, and carrying some of my more treasured furniture.

Not so enjoyable are the bills that go with being established and mobile, namely cell phone, rent, insurance, hydro, phone/internet, groceries, gas, repairs, etc. I can’t say as I ever yearned for that part of nesting, but I take it in stride, usually. I’ll be much happier when I can finally get my tax returns done (for the past 2 years), pay off my credit card, and have money set aside for winter tires.

I have spent more than a year at the same job, as a server at The Brew’n Arms English pub and restaurant in Bayfield, Ontario. Earlier this year, I graduated to keyholder and Dining Room Manager, as well as Kitchen Painter and Orchid-Caretaker extraordinaire. My bosses are wonderful people who have become friends and family, as well as the most understanding and flexible supervisors anyone could ask for. They make me want to stay and do my best for them, for their business, for their town.

Last year at this time, I was also working as a drywaller, and, shocker! I don’t miss it a tiny bit. I do enjoy my refined house-painting skills, which I have recently put to good use in a “cottage” in Bayfield, and hope to expand as a second job. If you hear of someone looking to hire a house painter, give them my number!

I’m not attending church because I couldn’t handle the one I had called “home” for years. I’m generally fed up with the institution that is what church has become, with all its expectations and traditions and legalism. I would enjoy a faith-based community of believers that is honest and open, a group that can laugh and be reverent in an informal way. I really could expand this paragraph to a whole essay, but suffice it to say that I have not encountered such a community, but I still seek to hold onto my beliefs. I am discovering more of what life is like on “the other side” (outside the Christian bubble), and it’s very educational, despite occasionally dangerous.

If it were possible to live on coffee, I’d do it.

I’ve joined the wonderful realm of BlackBerry, as I once dreamed of doing. And I’m paying for it, too.

Writing is still my best communication method.

I rarely see earlier than 10 AM, or close my eyes earlier than 1 or 2 AM. I’d like to change that.

The music in my life has developed over the past year as well. I am the youngest voice of the all-female cover band, Cactus Jam, and I love it, despite playing mostly Legions. I was also privileged enough to be part of Noted!, a project sponsored by the United Way in my county, which is helping to boost the music careers of the 17 women chosen to participate. We got to record 14 tracks in a professional studio, and a great-sounding CD is the result. This past winter I also ventured out to sing a few times at Open Mic nights at a local pub, and have been the featured soloist at two church events.

This year finds me recently motherless, a drastic blight on anyone’s life, and definitely on mine. It has changed so many things and finally propelled me into nesting in the first place. It also made my brother and I guardians of our youngest brother and launched me further into the land of disabled children in Ontario. I now have a lawyer, communicate regularly with several case workers, get all kinds of official mail, and have to return junk mail still addressed to Mom.

June 2008 also finds me blonde, and with an even greater fashion sense. I love that about growing older! I predict I’ll still be stylish in my 80s. If I’m not, remind me of now.

I’ve discovered I love flowers and plants, doing the Toronto Saturday Star crossword, Pinot Grigio and Shiraz, premium beer, CBC Radio, brie on melba rounds with semi-dried tomatoes in duck confit, Dollarama’s plain candles, serving dessert, mom’s old couch and armchair (with my apartment’s decor built around them), C&E used furniture in Goderich, Americanos from The Bean, and living in Huron County!!! (Sorry, but that deserved more than three exclamation points)
Being Sarah Elizabeth takes different shapes all the time, and I’m enjoying the process. Here’s to another year!

In which I Unexpectedly see the Bottom of my Truck

Today was one of those days, which for me happen more often than not, in which you wake up before you should, for whatever reason, struggle to get to sleep again, only to wake up later than you’d hoped, sluggish and achy, but with ample reason to get a move on.

The getting-a-move on (which should’ve included showering, food, coffee, etc.) was distracted by my recently-acquired internet, specifically email and the all-consuming allure of Facebook. Finally, with only 20 minutes left before I was supposed to be somewhere, I dressed and got ready.

I would write about getting stuck in the parking lot, again, but, you might be able to tell from my tone, it happens a lot, which is why I have a bag of cat litter in the back of my Toyota 4Runner–one of my downstairs neighbours introduced me to its traction-lending properties. It’s now more all over the back of my truck and not so much in the bag, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Wary of the sketchy winter condition of the road I would normally take, I took a substitute, which was acceptable and safe. The trouble happened when I turned off of it on the other side, however. Only a few hundred metres onto the road, which I assumed was well-enough traveled as to melt any underlying ice, I was beginning to speed up again when I felt the wheels lose their traction under me.

I knew immediately I wouldn’t be able to regain control, but I tried anyway. “Steer into the skid” always runs through my head in such moments, not that they are plentiful, but I can’t figure out which way is into the skid. Sure enough, traction was not to be had and control not to be regained.

Before I could predict what would happen, I found myself spinning to face the direction I had come. Powerless as I was to stop the skid, momentum carried me across the (thankfully) empty opposite lane and into the snow-filled ditch on the other side, where it promptly deposited my beautiful Trixie Toyota on her passenger side. I was left hanging by my seat belt, gravity having dropped my loose belongings against the passenger door, except my BlackBerry, which, of course, I had grasped tightly throughout the whole ordeal.

The passenger window all of a sudden seemed very far below me, brownish plow-cast snow packed tight against it under the weight of the vehicle. Something took over and I knew I had to get out. Seatbelt unbuckled and feet on the frame of the passenger-side door, I tried to open the driver’s-side door, but couldn’t lift it and get myself out at the same time. Who knew doors were that heavy?!

A black-toqued man in a Jeep had been behind me, had seen the whole thing, and was now hurrying across the road towards me. With him holding the door up, I was able to hitch myself out of the car. Momentarily stunned and beginning to shake, I paused, unsure of what to do next, till he calmly directed me to slide down the roof into the snowbank on the other side. I started to cry as I followed him to his car, where he immediately began calling people to help.

My brain cleared enough to call Mo, the friend I was on my way to meet. Telling her about the ordeal that had just occurred both gave license to my emotion and helped me process it. I knew she’d come and help me with whatever I needed, but meanwhile I was in good hands. Matt, my rescuer, called a tow truck and the police, then waited and chatted with me in the warmth of his Jeep for them to arrive. Meanwhile, countless numbers of people driving by slowed to peruse the scene, or come to a full stop to ask if everyone was alright. Matt started simply nodding and pointing at me as I smiled and waved from the passenger seat. Nothing like a car in the ditch to bring out the concerned citizens of the H.C.!

The police officer arrived first, and led me to his car to wait for the tow truck. The way things proceeded, I didn’t get the chance to thank Matt and shake his hand. I hope I get the chance to thank him properly someday. Maybe I’ll track him down and offer him and his wife fish and chips at The Brew’n Arms.

It’s so odd to see the bottom side of something as large as a truck facing you, especially one you’ve had for only a couple of weeks. I felt strangely protective and concerned. I did have a great view of my spare tire, though, which I was previously unaware of!

When Trix was hauled out, she was running fine and only showed a few dings along her right side, which was incredible for what had happened. Still, Tow Dude Steve and Mr. OPP thought it best that I get it towed directly to the garage for a check-up, just in case. Mr. OPP very considerately drove me to my destination, after writing down the particulars of coming for Fish ‘n’ Chips at TBA.

Mo was surprised to find that I was still willing to sing with her when I arrived late to the lunch event she had invited me to. Sing I did, however, heartened by whatever adrenaline seems to drive me in the wake of a crisis.

If flipping my car was the most unexpected event of the day, certainly the most intriguing (though expected it was not) was finding the woman who had taught me half of Grade 5 and all of Grade 6 sitting on the other side of Mo. Ironically enough, it was in her class, during one of the many music hours she made us participate in, that the student sitting beside me turned to me and matter-of-factly stated, “You know you can’t sing, right?” “Yeah”, I replied.

Over 12 hours later, I am driving a car rented from the garage, while Trixie awaits a full inspection of her driveability. I expect to bring her home tomorrow. I was blessed to in Mo’s care for the rest of the afternoon and evening, a treatment complete with tea and cookies and dry socks, not to mention the delicious and inspiring dinner.

Today I am thankful for cushioning snowbanks, kind strangers, cops that expect spin-outs in this weather, the gift of music, good food, and for friends. And today I join the ranks of those who are wishing for spring to come as soon as possible!