I never realized just how much of my parents’ blend of French Canadian/Irish addictive-moody-guilty Catholicism I had absorbed until a tree hit my house and I thought it was a sign that I’d gotten too “cocky”.

I mean, really.

Yeah, I was having a hard week. Actually, kind of a hard month. Then I’d started feeling as if I could, you know, handle it. I’m nothing if not buoyant, and was starting to feel pretty dang good. I even threw a few more things on my plate (exchange student living in guest room, anyone?) because hey, I can handle it.

Then a giant tree fell on my house and instead of thinking “jeez, what a drag” I immediately thought that it was a sign. I was being smacked down for my hubris. Who the hell am I to think I’ve got a handle on things, right?

That's my house there, on the right. The one with, you know, the TREE on it.

So what is it that makes me think this way? If my history has taught me anything, I have learned without a doubt that I’m a fairly amazing individual with mad coping skills. I am a problem solver. It’s what I do. I’ve cultivated that characteristic, as a matter of fact — have had to, actually, because there always seems to be a fair number of problems that need solving.

The difference then, was this: I had no control over this. Most of the time my brain is going tic-tic-tic trying to avoid potential problems, solve emerging ones, and clean up after old ones. This time, we had hurricane-force winds that we didn’t really anticipate, a power outtage, a tree on the house, chimney pieces flying… and not a single thing I could do about any of it.

Perhaps it is hubris. Maybe I’m just stupid with control-freakishness and can’t see that soemtimes shit just happens, and I need to surrender to it. All this time I thought I was being plucky, when in fact perhaps my being ever on my guard for potential problems was in fact making things worse? Maybe all of this is just more narcissism?


I’m not in the mood to get all judgy on myself, frankly. I’m enjoying my newfound sense of being human and lacking the control necessary to stop trees from falling on my house. I’ve been calling insurance people, roofers and contractors, and arborists. They all know what they’re doing and I can therefore  stay in my house and bake gingerbread cookies, write in Box761, and read books. Perhaps I’ll watch some Buffy while I’m at it.

It’s a good lesson. I’m going to try to be more conscious of  screwy thoughts like “the universe is smacking me down” and cognizant that the appropriate response to those thoughts is to laugh.

Out loud. Long and hard.

I’m going to try and stop catastrophizing on a daily basis, because when a catastrophe does happen, it turns out that there are all sorts of things we can do to remedy the catastrophe, and it becomes merely another stop on the problem>solution cycle (almost all of which can be fixed by making phone calls from the comfort of what’s left of one’s home).

we showed it who's boss

And while I’m at it, perhaps I should just try to remove that whole Problem thing from my world view. Perhaps life isn’t a series of problem-solving exercises? Maybe it’s just, I dunno…. life?

As I write, I am stuffed with warm gingerbread, and my dogs have finally stopped barking at the roofers (who are still here banging away in the twilight, fixing my roof).  My only real problem to solve is what to make myself for dinner. My only regret is that I gave the rest of the gingerbread to the roofers.

I want to savor this moment of clarity. I know that sometime, probably obscenely soon, I will return to my musings on  the universe’s random events and why they are actually all about ME.

761 Books

You may notice that there’s a new page listed on the bar right below the header for this blog. “761 Books” is where I’ll be discussing things I read.
I started with a list of what I’ve been reading lately. It was an odd exercise, because it made me realize that I’ve been reading some really low-brow crap lately, and really enjoying it.  I’ve never been much of a snob, but it was hard not to add something a bit more high falutin’ so I wouldn’t look quite so, well, common.

I would love to hear arguments, comments, and recommendations. You suggest it, odds are I’ll read it and get back to you.

“homeless troubles”

I live in a wee little town in Nova Scotia; we used to have a weekly Town paper and then it was consolidated to cover the entire County. I like the paper — I like that I usually know someone in one of the photos. I love that it’s local, and I like that there’s a whole half page above the fold of “From the Cruiser” police reports that never fail to keep me entertained for quite a while. I read them every week, and it never fails to amuse. Part of the fun is that they seem to be randomly listed (perhaps in order of occurrence?), and they’re pretty funny. Big City news, it ain’t.

Here are a few examples from this week’s column:

  • “a Wolfville resident reported a tradesman for making rude comments”
  • “a Centreville resident reported off-road vehicles driving around at 2 a.m.”
  • “an old vehicle without a windshield was doing donuts on the Morden Road at 6:50 p.m.”

See what I mean? ha ha ha it’s all kind of quaint and harmless — goodness gracious! A rude tradesman! Golly, we should call Gomer and Andy and have them give that tradesman a  talking to!

Oops, I did a donut!

And there’s also this weird conceit where all of the vehicles seem to be driving themselves; I picture a bunch of innocent vehicles ambulating and doing donuts on their own. It’s all weirdly depersonalized.

Would it be too judgmental to say “hooligans were driving ATV’s at 2 a.m. in Centreville”?

So, that’s not the big deal, really, though it would be an interesting sociological study that I will be happy to undertake at a later date.

What grabbed my attention today was this small article in the “from the cruiser” section. It rated it’s own subhead, that of Homeless troubles“:


I hope the scan is clear, but in case it’s not, or you’re print-restricted, I’ll type in the article:

Among the 11 calls about a 41-year old homeless man in the past 10 days, two concerned him being in the vicinity of New Minas businesses to avoid rain Oct. 1.

The man, who suffers with a mental illness, had previously been reported camping on municipally-owned property in the Greenwich area.

The man phoned 911 himself at 6:37 a.m. Oct. 3 to report rocks were being thrown at him  by two males who had been drinking.

There. Charming, isn’t it?

We live in a community/county where people actually feel they can call the police because a tradesman is rude, but at the same time a man with no home can’t shelter himself from the rain? More than one call a day for 10 days, and the man still has no place to shelter himself?  I’m surprised at how clearly the article was written — that it actually stated people were throwing the rocks. Though, like the ghostly donut-driving cars and ATV’s in the notices above it, it too is weirdly depersonalized.

Is this what happens when one of our community has a mental illness? Where is his family? Where are the social services that are in place to help this man find some dignity, some shelter from drunk assholes throwing rocks? Why is there no place out of the weather for him to stay dry? Or, even, why can’t he just be left alone to sleep in peace without fear of being stoned?

I don’t know that guy in the article, but my heart breaks for him. I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life advocating for persons with disabilities in Nova Scotia, and honestly, had taken a bit of a break… it’s hard, and I was very tired and a bit burnt out. Except for what I do for my daughter, I wasn’t going to do anything else — no more committees, no groups, or councils or articles or position papers or politicians. The personal that had become political became personal again. It had to — it was just really hard to do everything that I thought needed to be done. I’m not going to throw my hat into that ring again, not for a while I don’t think. It doesn’t necessarily  have to be my fight this time. I will, though,  be making a contribution to the local Canadian Mental Health Association,  that’s for sure. It is the least I can do.  Here is a list of all the Nova Scotia CMHA branches.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that this particular man did not want help. He did not want to be incarcerated/medicated.  Surely there must be something else that can be done? Some sort of sanctuary or shelter? How can we have homeless people in a community this  generous? Last week, our fire department had a fundraiser for a woman who has lung cancer — and those in our community at large raised over $10,000 for her.  This man has an illness too… why aren’t we raising money for him? Or, at the very least, not throwing rocks at him?

Want to throw some stones at her, too?

Mental health issues freak people out. Disability in most forms does, to varying degrees. My daughter has Cerebral Palsy  and is really very beautiful — now that’s a disability that people can wrap their heads around. It’s not scary, you know? People can feel sorry for her and pet her and can really feel like they’re helping her if they do something — like,  pick up something she’s dropped, or open a door for her so she can get in out of the rain.

If someone has a mental health issue, it’s not as cute, is it? And it feels much, much harder to help.

Thing is, it’s not as if anyone asks for it, right? He asked for this no more than my daughter asked for her CP,  or that woman for her lung cancer, but we’re helping them while we shoo him away for “being in the vicinity” of a business.

I worry, all the time, about how to care for our daughter; how to juggle our needs with hers, and how to get her the care she needs without the burden of care-giving falling solely on us. We worry, and plan, and re-jig plans — we try to roll with every punch that seems to come her way. One thing I do know is that she will always have us to love her. She won’t always live with us; that would just be weird. But she will live somewhere that she agrees to be. She will live somewhere.

It will be over my dead body that someone throws rocks at her.

This article, sitting quietly there at the end of the “from the cruiser” section (and ironically placed beside a call for proposals for a “Wellness Initiative Fund” from our Health Boards) really worked me up. The disabled in this province are the most disenfranchised group there is — poorer, less educated, every single determinant of health scores on the lower end of the scale. We work very hard to take care of our daughter, to give her the opportunities that she deserves, and she is a very lucky girl to have us.

Otherwise, she might be the subject of an article like this some day, who knows?

That we’re just as lucky to have her goes without saying. But I say it here because I want to make sure that it’s said, and out there. Everyone deserves to have their person-hood seen. She is not only her disability, that man is not only his mental illness. He is a person, a person living out in the open with nowhere to go, and having rocks thrown at him. I know that somewhere, that man has people who love him, who are worrying because he lives on the street. Maybe they respect his choice to live as he does, but worry about people throwing rocks at him early on a Sunday morning. I don’t know, and can’t begin to presume to know his story, or theirs, but see a responsibility in the community at large to help one of it’s own.

I’m not even sure what I’m getting at any more. I just think of those eleven calls to 911 and feel like there were ten too many calls. I wonder why there wasn’t a report of two males who had been arrested for trying to stone a disabled citizen. I wonder why there isn’t a shelter in our community. The article was called “homeless troubles”  —  a title I take issue with. While it is true that homelessness is one of this man’s “troubles” right now, I feel that it would be more accurate to say the troubles run a lot deeper than that.

Box 761: Pop Culture Edition. Buffy, Vampires, and Bones

I’m a bit tired today. I stayed up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1. Well, only about half of it, but the damage has been done — I now have to watch all of the other seasons and have to find the time to do so.

This sort of thing requires some research, as well. I have to actually find the rest of the seasons (I only bought the first) AND I don’t want to spend a fortune. Thank god for the internet.

A bit of background. I have heard for years about this Buffy show, and never watched it. I

... and, she wears sensible shoes.

think I probably thought I wouldn’t like it, or that it was over-rated as a camp-tastic romp, etc. Then I just plain kind of forgot. But I continued searching for my Buffy-esque brain candy… I tried them all folks — The Dog Ghost Whisperer (which has its moments — I mean, not everyone can pull off that 5 inch heel and lacy bed-jacket vibe like J Lo-Hew, and nobody can rock the false eyelashes like she can).

But hey. I have some taste, and that show got seriously bad when she started playing out her real-life yummy mummy fantasies and they all of a sudden had an abnormally precocious (even by tv standards) 5-year old who was, like, an empath or something. Oh, and her second husband? He’s really her first husband’s soul in her second husband’s amnesiac body and looks to us like the first guy but when you see him in a mirror on the show he looks like some other guy (the amnesiac second guy)….

Too complicated? Yes. And not in a fun way. And they actually canceled it without a final show, but I had stopped watching it by then anyway. How many Friday nights can you spend counting the inappropriate outfits that Melinda wears? (Hey, my husband is in Afghanistan… nothing much else to do).

See? Just trying too damn hard...

I just bought the first season of Buffy, and now see that The Ghost Whisperer is a too-earnest, gawky step-sister to Buffy. Where Buffy is effortless and funny and satirical, TGW is too much a vehicle for Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hunger, too much a pale imitation, too freaking earnest).  The Ghost Whisperer, if it were a person, would be Ashlee Simpson to Buffy’s Jessica.  Ashlee might be more slick, and maybe even more “popular”, but Jessica was there first — an over-the-top Jessica Rabbit and an original. Jessica might be corny and campy and unwittingly sort of well, teetering in the liminal space of cool/uncool, but she got there on her own. Like Jessica, Buffy’s sartorial choices are hit-and-miss (Pantsuits. Really Buffy?). She has some great looks, but some (like Jessica’s mom jeans) really need to be banished down the Hellmouth along with the other evil things. It is this, though, that makes Buffy lovable, and J-Lo-Hew just kind of a  pose-hard derivative Ashlee.

The ghost that Jennifer/Melinda whispers to is Buffy, and I don’t think that Buffy is listening.

So. I’ve pretty much figured that I’m a Buffy fan, right? I have to say that I might also be a vampire fan, too. At first, I was going to deny it, but upon reflection, there have been numerous guilty-pleasure pop culture experiences in my life that are vampire-related.  I’m gonna admit it here, and just put it out there…. I read the Twilight books. Every single one of them. I even watched the hideously horrible movies made from them, and can with certitude say a few things here:

this photo is for my eldest daughter. She loves him.

I think Robert Pattinson looks like he needs a shower, but he’s kind of okay. On the other hand — while reading the books I was firmly in “Team Jacob’s” camp but upon seeing the movies I can now say that they have made Jacob, um, yucky. The casting is wrong, and this says it all (that link is genius).

The books are not high literature, but are a rollicking good read nonetheless. When I’m looking for  reads of the rollicking variety, I go for the big fat series’:  Outlander Series, Twilight, Harry Potter, Jack Reacher books, the Millennium series, Alex Ryder books, James Patterson’s Maximum Ride stuff, the Odd Thomas books… you know, they uh, rollick. They aren’t illiterate, they are internally consistent, story-driven and when you’re done, there’s almost always more.

At this point in time I’m going to put my inner teeny-bopper away for a moment and remind you all that I actually have a Master’s degree in English Literature, okay?

Good. Glad we got that out. And just so you know, it’s a bona fide degree too, not a fake one from the internet….

So where was I? Vampires. I’m going to give up on discussing the evolution of vampires in popular fiction (from Lestat downwards) and cut to the chase. Angel. I discovered that not only is he a vampire who loves Buffy, but he later gets his own series! Yay! (Don’t tell me what happens, okay?). I find myself intrigued with this guy. Not only because I want to know if the series jumps the shark and lets him and Buffy be a couple, but because I’m amazed at what the years have done to this guy. Wow, they haven’t been entirely kind to him.


Huh. 15 years makes a big difference.

I like this guy (or did, until he started cheating on his wife in real life. Now I think he’s a jerk). He stars in one of the worst television-steals-from-books series there is: Bones (which is based loosely on Kathy Reichs’ clever and gripping Tempe Brennan series). Apparently these are done with the blessing of Reichs, but I can’t figure it out. In the books the protagonist, Tempe, is a smart, funny, flawed and really great character. In the show, she is some sort of high-functioning Asperger’s savant with (admittedly) great clothes. Ruined it, and have belabored the joke so long that it’s just not funny.

Don’t get it.

Why do I know all of this, you ask? Because I have a teenager living in the house, and  I consider watching tv with her slightly more “quality” a time than say, letting her sit in her room and text her friends all night while I read a good book somewhere else in the house. This way she can text in front of the television while I read in front of it, and we both watch it with half an eye/ear. See?

Quality time, people. That’s how you stay connected to your teen.

Okay, that and I love television. I love popular culture and I love television — the crappier the better. I love it all — reality shows, cooking shows, gossip/entertainment shows. I like drama, romance, comedy. All of it. I remember the jaw-dropping, stomach clenching but euphoric feeling it was to watch the very first I want to Marry a Millionaire. How much better can it get?

This is the stuff that will send our civilization careening down a slippery slope that we won’t be able to clamber back up. And I have a front row seat!

Box 761: Upper NY State edition

The last time I wrote, we were leaving the gentle environs of Canajoharie NY. Dear reader, we were pretty happy about that (please, no offence to any Canajoharians reading this). Then, of course, we drove through a torrential rain to Rochester. An okay hotel that had illusions of grandeur, and with the exception of a few minor points, pretty good nonetheless  (note to Housekeeping: my sheets had blood stains on them. Ew).

We had thought to explore Rochester and spend some quality time in the Flower City, but true to form we lost interest in sightseeing, in the greater interest of getting back on the road. It was a dull day out, and Rochester looked kind of like it was tired.  We ended up driving along the scenic route beside Lake Ontario, but found that it wasn’t particularly scenic…. the Lake view was obscured by trees for most of it. It was largely deserted though, which was great — our very own private highway!  Our destination, we decided, was Niagara Falls. We both knew that the US side of the Falls wasn’t as good as the Canadian, but figured we’d at least drive through the US side, so we could compare.

we wanted to lick the plate

On the way, we stopped for bathroom break.. I feel guilty when we stop and just use the restroom, without at least buying a bottle of water or something. The place we stopped smelled divine — garlic, tomato, fresh dough, oh! it was lovely. Mr. 761 thinks it’s the best pizza he’s had ever. I stuck to basic pepperoni (which they did correctly, with the pepperoni on top of the cheese, so it got crispy). Mr. 761 had steak and mushroom pizza: dough brushed with garlic and olive oil so it was moist and flavorful, shaved steak, crispy/succulent mushrooms, some onion, and just enough cheese. He was very happy. This paragon of pizza making is in Youngstown NY. Looks like a bit of a dump, but they make magic with their pizza.

Talk about dying towns! Niagara Falls NY was not a pretty sight, my friends. It was sad. Full of shuffling people, bench-sitters, and road construction. Every street in the freaking city seemed to be

Whirlpool Street, everywhere!

named “Whirlpool Street”… it just didn’t make sense. They had detour signs that went nowhere, dead ends, and one street that, after dutifully following the detour signs, turned into a parking lot for an apartment building. I tell ya, we’re lucky we got out of there! AND, we never saw the falls. It was a bit surreal, and very cranky-making.

So, we finally found the bridge to the promised land Canada, were waved through customs, and figured we’d do Niagara Falls right — park, wander about, maybe go to the wax museum (tradition, of course).  We didn’t manage the wax museum, because the crowds were horrendous, the prices were overly-high, and it was just, well, kind of sad. Nobody looked happy! It was like, I dunno, the Sad Amusement Park, with Falls. It started to get depressing pretty fast.

We did see this holiday-maker, though. Anyone care to explain the get-up? I saw her up close, and guess her age…. 20? 30? nope. Circa 60, if a day. Fascinating!

Wow. That's all I can say

There’s loads more to write (quilt show with Mr. 761!!), but that’s all for now. We want to go out and enjoy our holidays. Will write more later. Apologies, too, if the photos are a bit wonky — having trouble compressing them.

Rochester, and almost too tired to blog

We finally got to Rochester — through a POURING rainstorm. Much jaw clenching and hand wringing on my part. Am pooped, and in a fabulous hotel that beckons me.

Gassing up at the Sunoco

However, I wanted to post this picture. Through a fortuitous string of events, we were able to meet up with my brother, when he was in transit from Brockville ON back to his house in Connecticut. We managed to meet him in the insalubrious town of  Canajoharie NY. I wouldn’t suggest it for a vacation spot, but looking at the decrepit/closed Beech-Nut factory brought back some nostalgia from long-ago trips through the place on the way to other places.

Gassing up at McDonald’s

So great to see him, and it’s always such a pleasure to talk with him. He’s funny, and authentic, and a great guy. I don’t want to have to drive to Canajoharie again to see him, but if I had to, I would.

Lots more to write about, but no urge to do so at present. The sun is setting on Rochester NY and looking kind of romantic in a rain spattered sort of way. We’re going to get some food and take in the nightlife from our hotel bar. The hotel, by the way, is the Inn on Broadway. Highly recommended.

Opening Box 761

sometimes, someone else's story butts up against you. That's good...

sometimes, someone else's story butts up against you. That's good...

“Box 761″ is my post box number. I have always loved getting the mail; it’s one of my favorite daily errands. Who knows what will be in that box? Letters? Parcels? All of it will be some sort of information passed on to me.

I think that every person, no matter how “important”, has an story — a story that is important to someone. Every thing also has a story. My stories may not be earth shattering, or important, but oh how I love them. I believe that we all build a life, piece by little piece. We “write” these lives as we go, and sometimes we write a script and try to follow it. My scripts don’t usually work out, and the story sometimes has a surprise ending….

Box 761 is my life. All that I hold dear is here; my dreams grow here, my loves and mistakes and secrets reside here.  In simple things we often find stories that are universal.

Every thing has a story.

Box 761

The header picture for this blog is a bit of my house (box 761), surrounded by trees.

I love my house.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that it is literally and figuratively something I never thought I’d have. I met my husband when I was in my 30’s — I had already pretty  much decided that I wasn’t ever going to be married. Really, I wasn’t that type. I’m not sure what type I thought I was (since I was at the time a fairly broke, marginally-employed 30-something living in a crappy rental with my two cats), but I’m pretty sure that I pictured myself, in that magical someday, living a deeply cool urban lifestyle – with a guy who read me poetry in bed and had a rakish way about him. I think I was taller and didn’t have freckles in that dream too….

However, there’s nothing that a little bit of skillfully done therapy can’t fix. One day, without realizing it, I met my man (he is a tad rakish, but there’s no naked poetry spouting going on here, that’s for sure) and if you cycle forward a few years we were buying this house in a small rural community of 2400 people.

(I’m sure that this story will unfold eventually, but I want to get to the good stuff right now — the house)

My house was built in 1899, the same year my grandpa was born. He’s no longer around, but this house is sitting pretty. Here’s my house in 1943.  In 1944 they covered in the porch to make the sunroom from which I write this in 2010. It is my favorite room, but I find myself aching to have a porch. I’m working on that.

Box 761, in 1943

If you look at the photo, you’ll see that aside from the admittedly lovely (and mourned) porch, there is a building in the back. That no longer exists. I love that if you look carefully, you can see someone sitting on the roof of that old back building (barn? woodshed?). I would imagine that’s why someone stood outside on the front yard and took the photo, right?  Of those two trees in the foreground, only the one on the left still exists. It’s gorgeous, and half again as large.

I think about how lovely it must have been to walk by those trees, and to step up the generous stair to the porch. I hope they had a few comfortable benches or chairs out there for people-watching, for sitting peacefully on a summer evening. I wish I could see the roof line of that porch though — I want a template for the one I am planning, eventually, to build.

I can tell that this was taken before that blessed day when someone planted the lilacs that I stare at in the early summer out my window. It was definitely before my Victoriana-mad previous-to-me owner planted the silliness that is my front garden. See how nice and balanced it all is? Admittedly, it’s a black and white taken in the late fall or early spring so there’s not much around, but I can tell that the house (at this point an already mature 44 years old) wasn’t fussy and full of itself. It is what it is – a nice Victorian farmhouse.

This is my house now. I do wish that I had gone out and tried to replicate the exact spot and angle of that first photo, but I’m too lazy and have used an old photo from 2003.

Box 761, in 2003

Not much really has changed, though I’m not keen on the beige siding (and we know how I feel about a porch…). I’ve always wanted a yellow house, and would love to make that happen. Funny — we built an addition onto the back of the house (pretty much where the old back building was in 1943) and when we took the siding off, the clapboard underneath was the buttteriest, yummiest, most beautiful yellow of my dreams. Go figure.

Since I took this photo, someone stole my American flag, and the Canadian one broke off in a storm and I haven’t replaced either. Who steals a flag? sheesh.

In this town, there are quite a few old guard who know this as the “old Creighton House” after Sam and Ruth, who lived here I dunno when. Perhaps that’s Sam up on the roof? I’ve heard stories of them — they lived here with their folks who, as folks do, died. Sam and Ruth lived here together, neither married. Sam had “shell shock” and Ruth worked at the bank down the street and was found walking, confused, in her night gown one day.  I’ve heard that Ruth was a pack-rat and that the porch was full of old newspapers. I don’t know if any of these stories are true, but I do wonder if Ruth chose the wallpaper in the master bedroom closet. If it was her, she is to be commended for her good taste.

To newer residents, the house is sometimes known as “the American’s House”. I didn’t help that with the aforementioned flag, but what they refer to is the brief two-year stretch when an American military officer lived here, oh, about 11 years ago now (we’ve had it for 7). Again, my flag may have contributed to the name catching on. That, and the fact that my husband was in the military as well. I have dual American/Canadian citizenship, so I guess the name is factually correct, but it’s not a particularly warm nickname….

I wonder what stories they’ll have of us, 40 or 50 years from now? I hope the future owner likes my wallpaper choices (more on those another day). I hope they like the bathroom we built. I hope they know that this was a happy house; that even if it’s beige it’s really a happy yummy yellow deep to it’s core.

I hope they don’t rip down the porch I built in 2015.

A little bit of therapy, some really good luck and being in the right place at the right time, and here I am. That kind of person. The kind of person who plants bushes so her grandchildren can some day play around them.  A woman who can see the arc of history behind her and ahead of her, and who hopes that even if she walks downtown in her nightie someday, someone will know where to guide her home.