The Gift of a Step-Mom

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Once upon a time, I met a woman named Gil. She was an unexpected addition to my life, an add-on to a cherished relationship. I was polite during our first meeting. I behaved as graciously as I could, considering I didn’t trust that she would stick around. She was my Dad’s new girlfriend, and while my Dad was a handsome and charming fellow most times, he also hosted a dark, brooding side. When he slid into that state of dispiritedness, the demons that haunted his past eventually escaped into the present, and he would become a miserable man. I knew from experience it would take a strong woman to put up with this type of episodic behaviour. So, when Dad brought Gil into my life as an unexpected gift, she was a gift I didn’t ask for, and one I thought was fleeting at best. Boy, was I wrong.

My mom died twenty years ago, and in her absence, she has missed watching my kids grow up and graduating, she has missed chiding me over my tattoo’s, she has missed encouraging my pursuit of writing, and she has missed meeting her great-grandchildren. My mom missed so much by dying too young. Yet, despite the absence of my mom, I was fortunate  enough to share all of my family’s milestones with a wonderful woman named Gil.

This once upon a time stranger, became a treasured friend enriching my life with her never-ending wisened words and exuberant laughter. Our relationship deepened even further when my Dad became housebound with cancer. After his treatments were done, and all hope for recovery was gone, the only wish he had left in his heart was to die at home. Gil made that final dream come true, and while I often went to help, it was Gil that bore most of the burden. She never complained, and her empathy for him was inspiring. It is only in the most difficult of circumstances that we finally come to understand the true nature of people in our lives. During this terrible time, Gil was a stone of strength.

So, it is with great sadness that in the midst of this chaotic world today, the best gift my Dad ever gave me became tattered and worn, a thin shadow of her former self. She was diagnosed with cancer, and in only a matter of months, it had extensively invaded her body, and quite soon after, death rapidly spirited her away. 

Gifts, as I have learned, come in all shapes and sizes, in all styles and wrappings, in all colours and patterns, and the best ones are people. In honour of my step-mom, Gil, I hope that you become one who steps forward to offer themselves as a friendly soul in difficult times. 

It changes lives. God bless you, Gil.

Thousands of Possibilities

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There is almost nothing more sacred than a tree. If you are ever feeling down-hearted and blue, I have the perfect remedy for you, take a walk within the woodlands. Strolling through a forest grove will still the loudest torment in your heart. It’s even scientifically proven, through a study conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Studies at Japan’s Chiba University. Their research suggests that dawdling through a wooded environment lowers concentrations of cortisones, lowers pulse rate, lowers blood pressure, and has a positive influence on parasympathetic nerve activity. Even more importantly, they found compelling evidence to suggest that regular walks surrounded by trees boosts the immune system as well as a general sense of well being. It seems logical, right? Like brushing your teeth every day will prevent tooth decay, a walk in the forest will prevent the erosion of body and soul.

As for me, I’ve always loved the trees, and I enthusiastically recommend a touchy-feely approach. Once you are wandering among the towering timbers choose a tree that appears more inviting to you than any other. Then lean with your back against the roughness of the bark or wrap your arms around its expansive trunk. Close your eyes and open your heart allowing your worries to slip away, and then visualize its branches extending upwards into the sky, limitless and free. There is simply you and a tree. Imagine the roots beneath your feet fingering down into the earth, stretching and reaching, searching for the stability to hold itself upright during the most powerful of tempests. Fathom the persistence of the tree as it pushes its roots deeper still, twisting around rocks and threading through rigid clay.  In a sense, it’s teaching you how to weather any storm. It’s telling you to reach for those things that stabilize you and make you strong. And then, after you are securely anchored in your life, offer shelter to those who are not.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one Acorn.”  His statement is a profound truth, and I do believe, there is almost nothing more sacred than a tree— except for you.

The creation of a thousand possibilities lies within you.

Loving Misery

Thank you.

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Photo by Panos Sakalakis on Pexels.com

Dear people, I appreciate your existence,  you are continually adding dimensions to this world through either positive interactions or negative ones. A balanced life conducts both. We are an amazing species which is complicated and special, our lives are a varied experience of opposing dynamics. For, how would we ever know darkness if we never saw light? How would we ever know joy if we never felt sorrow, and how could we ever appreciate health if we never suffered through sickness?  Encountering and reflecting upon oppositional events brings depth and wisdom to one’s consciousness.

Just imagine? Whenever you have an interaction with another person you either lift them up or add to their misery. The choice is always yours. This opportunity is etched into every communication whether you are driving in traffic, standing in line or writing a comment on someone’s Facebook page. The decision as to how you relate to the next person you meet is always yours. Are you building bridges or ripping them down?

So there you have it, I simply wanted to remind you, to behave however you like today. It really isn’t up to me, or anyone else whether you present yourself as Happy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sexually-frustrated, or Grateful. You, have all the freedom, and you better use it while you have it, because it won’t be long before the liberals decide your emotions are racist too. And on that note I will take this moment to genuinely thank the darling grumblers and scuzzballs and dagger eyed devils in the world; their diversity is appreciated and defining. They’ve shown me exactly who I don’t want to become.  

 

Butt It’s Valentines Day, I Heart You

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Piazza Novona, Rome, relatively near to the events that sparked the creation of Valentines Day. In the spirit of love and attraction I gift to you this photo displaying all sorts of suggestive symbolism. Sit back, take a close look, and allow your imagination to run wild, like a horse that’s been spooked by a flying tarp. Photo by Heinz Klier on Pexels.com

Well, my friends of the heart, February 14th, has arrived. That’s right, the gushy, lovey-dovey celebration is here, regardless of whether we want it or not. It enters into our lives either like a ghost in the night, or a yodelling yelp of expectation. Let’s face it, this is a day of jumbled reactions. Some people will excitedly profess their love to a potential mate or current partner, and some people will offer death glares to paired up lovers in the street. While still, others will play the feline, pretending nothing is happening at all.

Despite the diversity of our feelings about the designated day of love, I’m sure you most of you know, the biggest winner on Valentine’s Day is the retailer. Hence, some of the biggest losers will be, the inconsiderate sods that neglected to buy a gift for their expectant partner. If you’re not sure how your significant other feels about the Hallmark holiday, here’s a little hint, if there is glitter on their lips and in their eyes, you should probably pick something up. God knows it’s easy enough to find a little something when all the stores are thrusting their heart-shaped wares in your face like an ageing stripper looking for tips.

As you can probably tell, I have become a Valentine’s Day skeptic. For the past four years, I have asked my thoughtful hubby not to participate in the Valentine’s Day scheme. I have literally said, “I don’t need anything for Valentine’s Day, don’t buy into the fake holiday and spend half a day’s wages on a card, and chocolates. I’m good. I already know you love me, I don’t need a damn card to tell me that.” Seriously. Spending ten dollars on a card that costs seventy-five cents to make causes me heart palpitations. Hmmm, the heart palpitations?  Maybe that’s why he continues to buy me cards.

But like I said earlier, it’s not only the price of cards that creates the extra squeeze on my blood pump. It’s the other items of adoration, like the chocolates. Please, please, listen to me, my bearded bedfellow, don’t buy the elegantly dressed up chocolates in a heart-shaped box for twenty dollars. It’s a rip-off! When you open up the frilly cardboard creation, there will only be a dozen itty-bitty sweets in that box. Even at the very thought, I feel my heartbeat suddenly chugging at top speed like a train about to fly off the tracks. “Dear husband, if you are utterly resolved to ply me with chocolate to express your affection, then for the love of all that’s penny-pinching, go to Costco. There you will find the products to deliver unto me, a serious supply of decadent treats.” He will hesitate at this, and I encourage him further. “Listen, honey, if you absolutely need the heart logo to display your devotion to me, then, by all means, use your handy dandy red permanent marker and inscribe the cosmic symbol for love on the container. I would be charmed by that effort. Plus, on the upside, the enormous bag of treats will feed both of us, and our children, and our children’s children and the future generations to come.”

Now, allow me to state once again, my grudge against Valentine’s Day, is not intrinsically against the event itself, but the retailers cashing in on the opportunity to sell junk for jacked up prices, just like politicians making promises at election time. It’s damn expensive. So, in the spirit of finding some meaning in this day that comes around once a year, I choose to dig up the roots of the February 14th tradition. Lo and behold, after a bit of finger flexing and a strong internet connection, I excavated a truth, or rather, a supposed truth.

Long, long ago, in the ancient times of Rome, there ruled an Emperor nicknamed Claudius the Cruel. We can infer from his handy dandy moniker, that Claudius the Cruel wasn’t precisely the empathetic humanitarian you would choose for a leader.  He was ferociously dominant, and during his rule, was knee-deep in a plethora of bloody battles. The warring tyrant used-up soldiers as casually as one would swat away flies. Eventually, there was a noticeable decline in the number of volunteers enlisting in his army, after all, what man wants to mean less than an insect? The arrogant ruler presumed it was the men’s affection for their wives and families that prevented potential recruits from joining his legions. Therefore he banned the practice of marriage and engagements in Rome.  What a Dic… tator.

Soon, all of Rome’s lovers were seeking cold showers. And then, as an answer to many hardened  prayers, along came Valentine of Terni, a Roman Catholic priest. He took one look at the quivering lovesick young people of Rome and made a decision. He defied Claudius the Cruel’s ban against marriages and performed ceremonies in secretive circumstances. Unfortunately, the ruler discovered Valentine’s defiance and arrested him. The cold showers ran once more, and the Roman Catholic priest, Valentine, was sentenced to death. On February 14, 270 AD, the tender-hearted man, Father Valentine, was beaten, stoned and then beheaded.

Consequently, the priest was granted sainthood for providing the blessings of marriage, done in the spirit of love. And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day. My opinion has changed. I have a new respect for the remembrance of February 14th, a fellow human sacrificed himself in the spirit of love and connection. My heart warms with honour and appreciation for Saint Valentine’s sacrifice. I will still refuse all the retail gifts today, but I’ll gratefully accept love and give plenty in return.

 

An Unexpected Gift

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, here I am, another year into my life and literally halfway or more into the grave. It’s been fifty-four glorious years since I had my first slap on the rump to make me wail. Five years after that, I received another slap on the rump, but that had nothing to do with my mom’s vagina and had more to do with my poor attitude. And then many years beyond that— Hmmm, nope, nevermind, we aren’t going to talk about any of the other rump slapping episodes because nobody really wants to know.

Yesterday began as an uneventful birthday. I didn’t have a dance pencilled in with the tribes of Pygmy’s in the Congo, or a swim with the sharks in Fiji. But, to be fair, I did eat a banana split for breakfast with mountains of whipped cream and a big fat olive on top. I even ate it before I created my first poop emoji of the day. So, there it was, a big green glistening vegetable atop of some cream, and then it was gone in a crushing moment of daring. And… since no one else was there to say it, “Congratulations to me.” Eating olives and ice cream took a special kind of courage. 

Fast forward midday into my birthday and you would have found me writing and alternately taking the dogs out to poop and pee. I was on my own for the next few days, Rick, my hubby had gone to work and wouldn’t be back. The day was mine. What to do? Besides writing and finding excuses to not write, I mean, well, it was my birthday. Shouldn’t I do something extravagant? 

“Ping,” said my phone as though answering my question in the form of a text. It was my daughter letting me know that Julie, my granddaughter, was sick and needed to stay home from school. My daughter Megan didn’t ask me to come and help. Yet, as I eyed the text, the hamster wheel inside my brain creaked to life, and as it spun my grey-haired old rodent squeaked, “Emma has dance tonight, you should offer to spend time with Julie, so Megan doesn’t have to bring a sick kid to dance or have Emma miss dance class.” And so a few hours later, I was snuggled up to Julie on the couch while her mom and her sister, Emma were away fulfilling dreams of a future hip hop star. After all, Emma is three, and at that age, dreams still have plenty of potentials to manifest. Gotta keep the dreams alive. 

Fortunately for me, probably due to the cosmic fact it was my birthday, Julie’s continuous puking had ceased and desisted. The magical powers of youth prevailed, and she had recovered. I considered this a grand boon and a wonderful birthday gift. My distress over my lack of opportunity to dance with Pygmy’s and swim with sharks had gone. Before long at Julie’s insistence, we had left the couch and made a blanket fort under the dining room table. Soon we found ourselves colouring harlequin masterpieces by the mystical light of a flashlight. As we huddled together under the ancient wooden piece of furniture, I looked up and banged my head. Warm memories flooded my heart as I recalled  playing in amongst all the nooks and crannies of this smoothly polished table. Many years ago, I too had lounged under this table as I played with barbies and hid out with colouring books. This table was part of our family history, it had been my grandparents, and then my parents, and it was now my daughter’s. My grandparents and parents were all gone now, moved on to wherever bright spirits go. And now, by a twist of fate, I sat in the shadows of the past making new memories with a cherished young one.  The circle of life continues and my birthday was blessedly complete. 

Moments Undone

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The stillness was tangible. The trees stood captured in the moment, frozen in the hush of a mild winter day. A single bird brought color to the pureness of the stark scene, it’s movement tamed to a twitch of feathers and a silvery song. Within these few seconds the world is at peace, and any who paused reflecting on the scene would find an unexpected calmness steal into their hearts. Life outside humankind’s sprawling territory is simple, untainted, and most of all unpretentious. Nature offers no hidden agenda, or striving shows of bravado, or judgement upon who you are. Nature is a gift to each and all whether murderer or saint. The Earth offers acceptance. A holy place where stress crumbles away like hoar frost falling from the trees on a tranquil midwinters day. Yet mostly what nature offers is a moment undone, a glimpse of life without the boundaries of scheduled time. It offers ultimate acceptance in these days of  incessant publicized turmoil. Take the time to find a moment undone.

Enough.

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Sshhhh, I think I hear disgruntled whispers. Yes, actually it’s getting much louder now. Is that the people? Finally! It is the people— and they are waking up. The people of Canada have finally realized that the government is not working for the citizens of Canada. The countrymen of Canada are working for their government.

Let’s look at the latest and greatest, my writing voice is dripping with sarcasm.  Think about this— The government is now charging you a carbon tax on your gas to go to work. It’s irrelevant to them that you are going to work so you and your family can live, and pay the tidy one third, or one half portion of your cheque to the government in taxes. It is no skin off their nose that we live in a country where we have winter six months of the year and they added a carbon tax to our heating bill. I actually think some politician probably got a nice pat on the back for that one, “Great idea! Canada has winter six months of the year it’s guaranteed income. Let the UN know that we can give the Sudan a couple extra million in aid.” And then a few weeks later after the announcement…  the head of the Sudan government is calling up his Swiss banker preparing the paperwork to deposit a large amount of money. The starving families in the dust bowl deserts and war-torn areas of the Sudan get a few truckloads of grain.

But really, isn’t it ridiculous? The government will take the carbon tax received and refund the low- income individuals, (the only part that is logical) and then the rest will go into general revenue where it is spent on whatever. Oh, look the government just created a whole bunch of jobs in administration by creating a new tax. Then they expect the carbon tax to slow people’s consumption of fossil fuel products when they are supporting no options to replace what we have. I don’t know about you but I need to heat my house in the winter. Do they really expect people to run out and buy solar panels and wind turbines and an electric car to reduce emissions? Who has that kind of money? Oh yeah, trust fund babies do. This carbon tax is a money grab. It will do nothing to reduce Canada’s very minimal carbon footprint because your average Canadian cannot afford an alternative energy source. If they were serious about going green they would use the extra money they gather from the carbon tax to offer to solutions instead of simply wasting it by tossing it in the general revenue trough. They could fund programs to plant more trees, build solar generation plants, build hydro dams, and grow hemp for plastics and biofuels. Did they even toss around the idea of setting up a green energy fund? No. They are taking the money from the carbon tax and sticking it in general revenue.

Ahhh, general revenue, the bottomless account that pays the bills and more. The more is when the government takes billions of Canadian taxpayers money and gives it to other countries to contribute to fixing their problems. Which would be amazing if it worked, but it doesn’t, because there is no accountability to what happens to that money after it leaves Canada. A great deal of it ends up in a government official’s pocket in that country and very little gets through to the intended parties. Did you know the Foreign Aid program has been in place since the fifties and we are still throwing money at the same problems today as we were back then?  I bet you didn’t know Canada paid out $9.3 million in foreign aid to China in 2017, I couldn’t find the statistic for 2018, but I bet it was about the same. China owns more than $3 trillion in foreign reserves. Why are we sending them money? Let’s get on the phone, “Hello China?” We found out you had lots of money under your mattress so how about you look after your own poor people now?”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I donate to charities on a regular basis. I support the idea of giving aid to less fortunate countries but if we are continuing to do so we need to ensure the money going to those countries is being received in it’s intended manner. I don’t think it is because we are not the only country contributing to humanitarian causes. There are plenty of other industrialized countries forking out funding too, and on a much larger scale than we are. Think about it? All these countries have been giving millions of dollars in Foreign Aid since the 1950’s. Isn’t it obvious the programs aren’t working to accomplish the desired results? Throwing money at a struggling country won’t help any of the starving and suffering people if a large portion of it is getting stuffed into Swiss bank accounts. The money is mismanaged. It shouldn’t be a big surprise but why do we have to keep throwing the Canadian taxpayers money away. Look at us? Canada is supposedly a well-managed country and we are prospering to the tune of 18 billion dollar debt under the Liberals. We should be able to keep our hungry fed and our poor housed. Again— Sarcasm.

Our present leader is hopeless; he throws the Canadian taxpayers money around like it was his own. He recently gave away $50 million in taxpayer dollars through a tweet to a charity called ‘Education Cannot Wait’. This charity has no historical successes. It was established during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors.  This is a newly formed charity fund, which may not even exist in three years because it is unproven. I cannot fathom the pomposity it took to do this. Shouldn’t donations have to go through some sort of screening process? Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister, Eastern Canada’s election pick, simply decided to throw out a tweet like he was some sort of celebrity. “Hey @Trevornoah – thanks for everything you’re doing to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s legacy at the @GlblCtzn festival. Sorry I can’t be with you – but how about Canada pledges $50M to @EduCannotWait to support education for women & girls around the world? Work for you? Let’s do it.”

Hey fellow Canadians, drop to your knees your load just got a little heavier.  Just look at the arrogance of our government, they are using the taxpayers, as a cash cow to fund pet projects. This government has no accountability. But to be fair Justin comes by it honestly, here is a quote from an article written by Eric Margolis, “In 1968, when Pierre Trudeau went from rich, socialist professor who had never held a real job in his life to prime minister, Canada’s national debt was a modest $11.3 billion; the federal deficit was zero. When Trudeau left office in 1984, the debt had mushroomed to $128 billion; the deficit to $25 billion annually. But this was just the beginning.” Does this scenario feel familiar? Feel free to read the whole article https://theblastnz.com/2017/03/08/justin-trudeau-born-and-raised-a-communist/

I would love an independent accounting firm to come in and have a look at the government of Canada’s books. It would delight me if they would follow up on every dollar given through taxation. Isn’t it about time the government became accountable to the taxpayers of Canada on the peoples terms? Let me remind you if you have forgotten— They work for you! You do not work for them… although when you add up all the taxes you pay through GST, provincial sales tax, excise tax, liquor tax, federal income tax, provincial income tax, carbon tax, property tax, probate tax, hotel tax, and airport tax, you have to wonder who is actually working for who?

But do you want to know the worst part of it? The saddest part about all of this is that most Canadians simply want to look after their families, have a safe community to celebrate, pay their bills, and maybe have a bit of a holiday once a year. Canadians want a simple honest life. They are generally complacent. So, when another tax is added to the heap they might grunt and whinge a bit. Sure their head might drop another notch to grind out another day of work, or add another part time job to make ends meet but they do it. Our country was built on hard work. But now we have hit a wall. Some provinces are losing thousands of jobs and the ones they are being replaced with will barely cover living expenses. Canadians are through giving their money to a government, which doesn’t understand how to build a prosperous economy and create real jobs. People are tired of paying taxes that are misused and misdirected towards programs that don’t have the desired outcomes anyway. Even in a country full of complacent individuals there comes a time they will say enough. Is now the time?

 

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   He’s not Canadain but his words ring true. Ben Carson- Retired American neurosurgeon that did pioneering work on the successful seperation of conjoined twins joined at the head. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. 

 

Whose Love Do You Need?

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Merry Christmas everyone! May your holiday season be merry and bright, and not because you polished off half a bottle of Aunty Edna’s raspberry wine, or have sampled Uncle Louie’s homegrown left handed cigarettes.  But I hope you are bursting with bubbly joyfulness because you know you are loved and cherished, not just by your family and friends but more so that you are loved and cherished by you—By the person, you see looking back at you each morning in the mirror.

I hope with all the hope I have that you experience a healthy dose of self-love this upcoming year and all the way into your future. Not only that but I hope all the self-love you cultivate sticks to you like tree sap on a Sasquatch. (And to all my perverted friends out there, the self-love I’m writing about comes from the heart— not from the hand.)

Maybe you are one of those people who has already discovered how to love themselves despite our judgemental society, or uninspired upbringing. If this is you, then you have unlocked life’s most valuable lesson. You know you are irreplaceable.  You have realized that when you dance to the rhythm of your own song you are vivacious. You have the knowledge that you are responsible for your own happiness, and you need to be your own personal hero because nobody is coming to save you.

Make no mistake, finding self-love isn’t a splendid stroll in the park. It’s a frightening walk in the deep dark forest of your mind. It’s the place inside you where your internal sneering self-talk is the sharp-fanged monster ready to tear your aspirations into shreds. Knowing you need to ignore that voice and being able to do it are two different things.

For instance, I get it. I know I’m supposed to love myself. I can totally appreciate that I would be further ahead in life if I could practice self-acceptance in each and every moment in my day. Yet, so far I haven’t been able to do that.  The blatant voice of self-judgement is insidious. Lately, it’s been whispering, and sometimes even screaming, ‘underachiever’ into my subconscious at every pause in my thoughts. It’s slightly depressing. Perhaps it’s because there is a twinkling of the truth.

Alas, we all have our own fiends to slay. And by the Gods of Oden (I’ve always wanted to write that), it’s not easy to nurture the love for oneself. So, in the spirit of the upcoming New Year that is wide open with possibilities, I am here to remind you, and me, that a steady stream of love and compassion towards oneself will vanquish our demons in the end.

I am honoured to be your friend, your family, and your companion on this journey of life. I wish you many blessing today and for the rest of the days to come.

In Dire Straights

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A cry for help can come from the oddest places. We all need a little help at one time or another throughout our lives. I’m not just talking about people needing help, but I’m referring to dogs and cats and horses and all those creatures who sometimes can’t pull themselves of the circumstances they find themselves locked into. It might even be a pigeon needing assistance. And that pigeon might even return the favor of you saving its ass by shitting on your car. However, we don’t go out of our way to assist others for a reward or for the appreciation from another being. We do it because we see a fellow creature in desperate need. The award is the uplifting feeling that arises within when individuals act together or alone towards a selfless goal.

Last spring I worked a shutdown at a pulp mill, I wasn’t involved in welding fractured metal or replacing worn pipes or cracking on wrenches to fine-tune a motor. I was a tank watch person. I was assigned each morning to watch the door of a vessel that may or may not have previously contained chemicals and caustic substances. I was responsible for ensuring the gas test was kept current for the people that would be working inside, and I was responsible for signing people in and out of the tank as they came and went to ensure everyone got out of the vessel safely.

One unusually warm spring day when the upper levels of the plant hovered near thirty-two degree’s, I was posted on the eleventh floor of the recovery boiler. My morning was passing as slowly as an ice cube melts in a chilled drink. The vessel I watched contained only one welder creating the odd burst of fireworks. The steady rumble of engines below vibrated through my feet on the steel grating. A shadow flickered by in my peripheral vision. I turned my head to the disturbance of light. Nothing existed there. I refocused my attention on the hatchway mesmerized by the reflection of the tradesman’s sparks dancing on the shiny metal. Again a shadow swept into the edge of my sight. I twisted around in time to witness a pigeon land on a pipe suspended from the ceiling. I sighed. Its outcome wasn’t promising. A few hours earlier, Marty, the gas tester had pointed out a couple of dehydrated pigeon husks at the top of an elevated section on the eleventh floor. I felt terrible. What an awful way to die. Trapped up here in a manmade dust bowl hearing nothing but the roar of machinery in the absence of sun and water.

Over the next forty-five minutes, the bird renewed its cycle of fluttering around and then landing intermittently. If a bird could pant, I would have thought it was panting. At one point it settled on the steel grating twenty feet away from me. The pigeon was noticeably distressed.

When the welder went downstairs to the camp trailer for his coffee break, I marked my vessel closed and tried to steer the bird towards a fenced off open shaft leading down to the bottom floor of the building. Maybe I could get it to dive down to freedom. It was going  well, the bird hopped up onto the cement border surrounding the shaft and cocked its head eyeing me up. Maybe it sensed the cooler fresh air wafting up the shaft. Perhaps it would escape the fate of its fleshless relatives on the eleventh floor. I hoped with all the hope I had that the bird would soon be liberated. I watched the pigeon spread its broad wings and leap off the cement curb. I held my breath— It dropped down and then quickly flew upwards and landed on the nearest metal platform.  I shook my head. Of course, it wouldn’t go down, pigeons aren’t diving birds.

I heaved out an exasperated sigh and spoke to the bird. “You know, I said tipping my head to the side, “If you would frickin co-operate with me I could pick you up and carry you outside?” The greyish blue pigeon tilted its head and eyed me with a curious stare. It blinked, and then I blinked. Now we were communicating. I crept up the stairs on the metal platform towards it. It side-stepped around to watch me. I spoke in a soothing tone, “That’s right, ohhh, you’re such a pretty bird. Good job, you’re doing wonderfully.” I continued approaching with sneaky movements. My hand was four inches away from the creature. I saw the thin layer of dust on its plumage, and the way it puffed in and out with stressful breathes. It looked nervous. It was going to fly. I made my move. I snatched at the bird, and my fingers brushed past its feathers as it flew away. I wrinkled my nose and growled— So close.

I glanced at my white-banded wrist watch. The welder wouldn’t be back for another twenty minutes. That would give me enough time to go down and use the bathroom and go to the tank watch trailer to refill my water. I pressed the button for the elevator. I waited a minute, and then I decided to take the stairs. If I stayed I’d be delayed forever because the elevator was always backed up at coffee time. As I trotted down the cement stairs, I poked around in my brain trying to stir up an idea how to trap the pigeon. After I had emptied my bladder and filled up my water, I headed back to my post. I lucked out, there was no line-up at the elevator. I pressed the button and abracadabra the doors opened.

I stepped inside, “Hi Mike, the eleventh floor please.”

“Sure thing,” he answered merrily, Mike always seemed to be in a good mood. He did this shut-down work as a part-time gig to supplement his retirement income and add a bit of diversity to his life. He usually had a tank watching assignment like myself, but today he was giving the elevator lady a break from her tedious job.

He pressed the button, and asked, “How’s it going up there?”

“Pretty good,” I said straightening my hard hat. “A bit boring though with only one welder working in the tank . How about you? Good times in the elevator?”

He chuckled, and then leaned back on his stool regarding me with a curious expression, “Actually,” he drawled. “You wouldn’t believe it? When I went up to the eleventh floor earlier and the door opened there was no one there— And then—a bloody pigeon walked right into the elevator.

My mouth dropped open and relief flooded into my body, the little pigeon was rescued from his prison of heat and dust. “That’s great,” I exclaimed, ”Did you give him a ride down?”

He frowned and scratched his gray head, “Well no— I shooed him away.”

“Oh,” I said as my face lost all enthusiasm for life.

Mike couldn’t help but notice, “Well, maybe he’ll still be there?”

“Yeah, maybe, I replied glumly.

We arrive on the eleventh floor, and the door slid open.

Mike leaned forward and the jabbed a finger towards the opening, “There it is.”

My excitement returned, and my eyes shimmered with glee, “Ok,” I whispered to Mike. “You hold the door open. I’ll herd it in, and then you take it to the ground floor and shush it out. The big door to the outside is right there, I’m sure it’ll find it’s way out from there.”

I moved stealthily out of the elevator while Mike kept the door open. I crouched down so I wouldn’t be as intimidating to the bird. Then I gently waved the pigeon in the direction of the elevator. The worn out fowl strutted right into the confined space like a well-trained trooper. Mike pushed the button to close the door as the pigeon hovered against the far wall. I grinned widely at my accomplice, “Good luck Mike, it’s all yours now.”

He smiled hesitantly, “See you later.”

The door shut and I couldn’t help but wonder if Mike would have pigeon shit in his hair the next time I saw him. Or even worse, what if the bird freaked out with claws extended frantic to escape the tight space? My co-worker might have bleeding gashes on top of his silver-haired head the next time I saw him. What have I instigated now?

On my lunch break, I actively searched for Mike. I exhaled a weighty sigh of relief when I found him. There was no bloody rips in his skin or bird shit in his hair. I plopped down on the chair beside him and asked, “How did the pigeon transport go?”

He giggled a bit and then went on with breathy expression, “Well, it started out alright.  The bird was as calm and as cool as could be. Even when the elevator started moving it simply looked around like it was no big deal. But then when we stopped on the fourth floor and  people got on—” Mike sucked in a deep breath of air and puffed it out shaking his head,  “It went crazy. The bird started flapping all over the place, and people were ducking and squealing.” He chuckled and leaned in close to me, “I closed the door anyhow. Then the pigeon really went bonkers— I thought, oh no— but then out of the blue a welder reached up and plucked the bird right out of the air. He tucked it under his arm, and when we arrived at ground level, he walked the little critter outside and set him free.” Mike shook his head with amazement, “I just couldn’t believe how quickly that guy snatched the bird out of the air.”

“That’s awesome,” I laughed. Big bubbles joy rose up inside me. One less husk on the eleventh floor. I slapped Mike enthusiastically on the shoulder, “Good job man, but I have to say after the door closed upstairs, I was worried about you, I had visions of you being covered in bird shit and claw marks.”

He chuckled, “Nope, no pigeon poop. But it wasn’t all me, you coaxed the bird into the elevator. I couldn’t believe how you ushered it in. Boop, boop, boop.”

“That part was easy, I had plenty of practice shepherding chickens when I was younger.” I paused. “But that welder you mentioned? That was cool.” I pause trying to find the words to describe what we had done, “What’s that saying? It takes a village to raise a child? Well, apparently it takes a work crew to free a pigeon.”

That was a good day. It was such a brilliant feeling to help a creature that was in dire straits. I hope you have a pigeon rescuing kind of day.

Farewell Valentines Day

September 2009 to March 2010-18

It’s one day after the love fest of February 14. My better half was away at work this week. It was for the best. My peri-menopausal hell decided to torture me with a wakeful sleep, so I was up at 4:00 am making heart-shaped gingerbread cookies. Later that morning I dropped off cookie care packages for the neighbors, and my sister and her family. My last stop was my daughter’s house to see the grand-girls. It was the highlight of my day. Kids can always make a person feel special. It’s the way their faces light up when they see you. It’s how their little legs sprint forward to greet you. It’s the best moment in the world when they complete their connection to you and leap into your arms squeezing so tight. Wow! That moment in time is an exploding firecracker of joy in the heart.

After partaking in a great deal of playing horsey and talking figurines, I went home. The rest of my Valentines Day was an orgy of leftovers by the light of my computer watching a romantic movie. I trusted the movie’s rating of 71% inspiring to view by rotten tomatoes. It was a 99-cent movie. I didn’t want to rent a full priced movie for only one set of eyes. My tendency to be frugal has recently been intensified due to the tax burden. After watching it, I decided 99 cents is how much it cost to produce it. The show was a total dud. I found myself wishing for a spring house fly to hatch, so I had something more entertaining to watch. There was more drama in my morning bowel movement than there was in the entire movie. I know, I shouldn’t complain. At least I have a computer. I could have shut it off. But I spent a whole .99 cents on that movie and I needed to see it through. IT’s money. I could have bought a can of vegetables, or can of tomato paste with those 99 cents. I suppose I could have purchased something else at the dollar store, but since I boycotted China, I don’t shop there anymore.

Anyway, I hope your Valentines Day consisted of at least one exploding firecracker moment in the heart. And I trust it wasn’t a heart attack, and it’s love.