Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lola's Puppies

This is Lola.

Once upon a time she was a puppy.

But now she's a mommy with puppies of her own. Five of them!

So now this means my brother-in-law's household has seven Saint Bernards, two other dogs, one cat,some fish...oh, and a toddler and a newborn.

Now that's going to be a busy Christmas. :)

By the way, Adam, I put this up for your benefit.... (Yes, my brother is seriously considering a new puppy in his household...)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Nothing Dire

A friend said to me the other day: "I was afraid something was up with you, you know, something dire ."

"Dire?", I said. "Why is that?"

"Well, you haven't written on your blog in a long time..."

No, I can assure you all that nothing dire is up with me. :)

Mainly the last part of November, first week of December has flown by in a bit of a blur. Well, some of it has slogged by in not-so-much of a blur actually, but it's been filled up with distinctly non-bloggy activities.

Like participating in an online course for professional development. I had hoped it would be a little more interesting but the problem is you can't have a good online discussion group if most of the group is not into discussing things.

Which leaves the other part of the course, which includes reviewing and assessing scholarly and long-winded draft documents/recorded seminars of child-care related issues.

In one three minute video-clip I was being asked to comment on, the speaker used the word "paradigm" twenty-two times in under three minutes. Excrutiating!

Anyway, by the time I'm done on the computer lately, all I want to do is go kill things in World of Warcraft. Sigh.

But, if you've read this far, I shall give all a update on the highlights of this past month.

1. I sprained my shoulder at work, much to the consternation of the children gathered in a concerned circle around my prone form. I didn't realize it until the next day because I landed on my head first and that was the big owie I was most concerned about. Tackle-hugs. The love of a child can be heart-warming...but potentially dangerous.

Note: Although I didn't have to take a single hour/day off work for this injury, I STILL had to go through paperwork hell to document it of course. My shoulder hurt, sure, but it was a bigger pain in the butt, so to speak.

2. This was the month I finally decided to take a step towards getting over my fear of highway-driving. (Those of you who may not know me well, let me inform you I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to driving. )

Well, white-knuckled or no, I made it to Nanaimo going 110 km/h. Oh sure, people were still passing me by going mach, but I'm still pretty happy with myself.

3. I went to a burlesque show with Jeff and Melanie. (Okay, this was even a while further back, but it's worth mentioning). There were twirling pasties, fishnet tights, and feather boas flying everywhere. I won a risque purse that I'm quite fond of, featuring faux leopard print and a vintage brassiere advert.

4. My beloved old troupe of bellydancers had a reunion at my friend Emily's house.

5. My friend Lisa got married and I went to her most entertaining bridal shower.

6. I got an email from my mother-in-law in Kathmandu the other day telling me I should look on her dresser for her ticket to Winterharp . She figured after arriving back in Canada after forty-eight hours of flights and layovers beautiful harp music would only put her to sleep. Since I'd tried to buy tickets for this sold-out concert a month ago with no luck, this was a nice surprise. Gorgeous uplifting performance!

In other (non)- entertainment news, I ended up turning down a ticket tonight to go see an Elvis impersonator. Not like me to avoid any sort of free ticket. Guess I wasn't quite in the mood.

7. I've also spent quite a bit of time this month working on home-made holiday presents. This is mostly to avoid the dreaded Curse of the Holiday Shopping Mall , but then I turn around and make plans to meet up with Tai in Nanaimo tomorrow at Chapters, and I just know we'll be perilously close to entering a mall.

Okay, that's my life in a nutshell. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Adventure and Photography

Every once in a while I feel a tremendous emotional response to an artist, and often I find that artist is a photographer. Perhaps it's because photography takes images from the real world and can transform them into so much more. Art. Poetry. Mystery. Humanity.

I am presently full of breathless admiration at the work of Phil Borges.

Through his travels--to Africa, India, Mongolia, Irian Jaya, Afghanistan, South America--he has created striking hand-toned photographs of people from far-flung places. His images are often of the very old and the very young.

I was lucky enough to meet Phil Borges at a conference at the University of Victoria this Friday.

I'd been listening to some pretty interesting speakers all day on a variety of topics that loosely fell under the subject of perspectives on childcare from multicultural viewpoints: there was a talk on child labour issues in India, a lecture on the experiences of migrant children crossing the border north into the States as seen through their art-work; a talk from schoolteacher trying to reintroduce the Maori language into the New Zealand school system. There was a preschool activist from Hong Kong, a professor from a university in Cameroon, and a representative from the Potawatomi Nation talking about childhood intervention in Native American communities. It was a very full day.

But I think I would have travelled to Victoria just to hear Phil Borges speak for forty-five minutes.

One of the things he talked about was the disappearance of culture, and how preserving diversity was hugely important. The main goal of his photography, he says, is to help preserve the world's diversity through images and story-telling.

Did you know of the 6000 languages spoken on earth today, 3000 of them are not spoken by the children? "Every two weeks another elder goes to the grave taking with them the last spoken word of an entire culture."

Every time a language dies, said Borges, "It's like burning down a little library."

The thought of it hits me in the gut somehow.

As he showed us his pictures, Borges told us fascinating tales from places like Tibet and Nepal---about photographing the Dalai Lama, about meeting nuns just released from years of prison for the crime of displaying a poster asking to free their country, of Buddhist oracles in ninety-pound hats.

He took us deep into the land of Irian Jaya where one of his picture illustrates the results of the custom where each time a loved one dies, the women cut one of their own fingers off.

In another picture, a little girl waits outside the hut where her grandmother lies on her deathbed and he described the goodbye rituals and the special connections between the very old and the very young --for one is just about to return to the spirit world and the other has just left it.

Some of his photos tell stories of heroic women--of a woman teaching girls in a forbidden school under the Taliban, of an Ethiopian girl who bravely defied tradition and single-handedly ended the practice of female circumcision in her tribe.

Some of his photographs, like that of the regal African woman at the top of this post are of shamans. Another of his adventures took him into the jungles of South America where he witness the "shape-shifting" of one of the shamans there, as he took on the essence of the jaguar.

Oh, this person had some interesting travels!

He is also involved in getting children all over the world involved in "telling their own stories" through photography, and then using the photographs they've taken to make little films.

For instance, the children of one Guatemalen village wanted to stop the pollution of the river in their town (people would throw all kinds of things into this, their drinking supply, without regard). After documenting this, the children took their film to their mayor and filmed him saying he would take action. And he did. The river was cleaned up.

In a beautiful little film (that we saw during the talk), a Tibetan girl decides that it is not fair that only boys can have their own football team and she decides to change things...

(Apaprently you can view some of these child-made films online somewhere and I'm going to go and look for the link. )

Anyway, photographer Phil Borges has several books out, two of which I'd love to own. There were samples at the conference, but none actually for sale. Too bad, because I know he could have sold a lot. One is called Enduring Spirit and the other is Women Empowered .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why I'm Not Going to Hug Any Trees Just Now

So, there are definitely better ways to start the morning than this .

I was standing at the living room window listening to the weather report (while staying tuned to try and win a radio contest that would take me --please please-- away from all this torrential rain to sunny Mexico). The weatherman was telling me it was pretty nasty out there (not exactly new information) and to please do watch out for downed power-lines and falling trees....

when suddenly there was an enormous CRACKING sound as my neighbour's tree decided to uproot itself and CRUNCH my friend Tai's car!

Following the CRACK and the CRUNCH , there the was sound of Spider Girl's high-pitched disbelieving voice wailing my friend's name as I charged upstairs to wake her.

This is so not how I usually like to treat my house-guests.

Tai has posted on this subject over on her blog and I thought she was remarkably calm considering the situation. "Never a dull moment", I believe was her wry comment as she surveyed the damage.

Things I Have Learned From This #1: Never tempt the gods.
Why, just the night before, Tai and I discussed the time a small branch fell on my car once while I was driving during a winter storm and how that totally unnerved me. She said, I don't believe I've ever had a single branch ever fall on my car...."
Tai pointed out this morning that actually still holds true as it was obviously not a branch that fell on her car.
Things I Have Learned #2: Large trees have disturbingly shallow and small root systems.
Look at the roots on this enormous tree! I've seen more impressive roots on dandelions and creeping buttercup in my flower borders!
And there are several more trees like this in my neighbour's yard. Don't get me wrong---I like trees. But I'm eyeing them rather more suspiciously today.
The one that fell was so long it fell (not only onto Tai's car) but completely across the street and bounced onto the roof of my neighbour's little red car before the power wires pulled it up a little ways again.
Things I Have Learned #3: I need to try to look more polished when I roll out of bed in the morning.
You know, in case I'm required to give an interview or two before breakfast.
Obviously, you never know how a morning's going to go.
First this cameraman shows up.....

And then another TV station showed up. Oh, and I think I saw Tai hob-knobbing with a newspaper reporter as well.
Tai's little car was certainly the hot topic on the block.
And we made it onto two TV stations tonight. Of course, I actually didn't have any power to watch them at my house (our wires got nicely ripped out of the side of our house), but I did borrow my mother-in-law's electricity and so was able to catch our remarkably cheerful faces on the news at six.

Next time I'm hoping our fifteen seconds of fame is because we've won the lottery.

Poor Tai! See what happens when you come and see your friend!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Spa

I've been saving up this experience for a while--45 minutes of blissful head and shoulders massage at the Kingfisher Spa......

It's been nice to look over at the mantle and see those envelopes with the gift certificates waiting inside for me, but I'm ready for some pampering.

About a month ago I used the one for the Pacific Mist Hydropath experience--that's an hour I spent pretending to be a mermaid princess in tonic mineral pools, massaged by waterfalls, comatose in an aromatic sandstone steam cave, and soaking in mystically-beneficial glacial lake mud. Aaaaahhhhh.....

Then warm, blissed out, and wrapped in a cozy robe I spent a while watching the full moon rise over the ocean in the relaxation room while nature sounds burbled in the background.

Life is good, my friends. I am looking forward to this evening.... I shall report back to you later if I'm not too relaxed to type..

Friday, November 02, 2007


1. Name one person who made you laugh last night?
Tai (otherwise known as Myscheef, second from right in this picture.). She was jumping up and down on Andanar's head in Stormwind Keep, laughing manaically and pretending to perform CPR. Another player commented that this was truly a Kodak moment. I think you had to be in the video game we were playing. Trust me.

2. What were you doing at 0800?
Squeezing in some reading before I started work.
I'm reading a book called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm enjoying it immensely. It's about a woman who takes a year off to find herself and spends it in Italy (seeking pleasure), in India (seeking spirituality), and in Indonesia (trying to put both those things together).
3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Drinking tea and downloading photos.
4. What happened to you in 2006?
I had to think about this for a few minutes because 2006 was not a year where I could say "Oh, that's the year I went on safari in Africa" (2005) or "That's the year I went to Italy (this year), etc.
The year 2006 was sadly travel-free. However, I did still manage to be a tourist in my own neck of the woods.
I went to the amazing Bodyworlds exhibit, visited the Bug Zoo , went on garden tours, sang along at a Spirit of the West concert, imbibed Shakespeare at Bard on the Beach , saw the musicals Cats and Urinetown and the ballet Amadeus, and saw a Chinese dragon parade.

On a more personal level I attended a peace rally, danced in a bellydance show, bought a new car, painted my kitchen, went to a Full Moon pajama party (or two), saw my brother get married, and moonlighted for a while as the cleaner at a dentist office after hours in addition to my full-time preschool teaching job and my part-time gardening/flea-market gigs.

Yep, 2006 was a busy one.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?

"Bah! Murlocs!" (Er, I'm sure there's no explanation needed...)

6. How many beverages did you have today?
Two coffees and some tea.
It really depends how many more cups of tea I throw back before I go to sleep.

7. What color is your hairbrush?


8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Big beautiful butterfly earrings for my pen-pal Ritika. Jeff's mom is leaving for India/Nepal this weekend and I thought I'd send along a little gift with her because I know she'll be visiting her while she's in Kathmandu.

9.Where were you last night? Home playing video games.

10. What color is your front door? Brown like the wood it is, with a pewter door-knocker in the shape of a cat's head.

11. Where do you keep your change?
In my future.

12. What’s the weather like today?
Frosty, chilly, hung with clouds--the kind of weather that finds you contemplating the purchase of woolly eighties-style leg-warmers.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor?
Chocolate-chip mint. Unless you're talking gelato and then it would be a toss-up between limone and frutta di bosca.

14. What excites you?

Buying a ticket to somewhere far from home and knowing that soon I will be there. It's an addictive feeling, this travel-bug.

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Depends on how it's behaving. I was just admiring my pony-tail a few days ago and today I'm pulling at the tangles in impatience and fiercely contemplating going back to the days of the chin-length bob.

16. Are you over the age of 25? Happily, yes.

17. Do you talk a lot?

Does a duck like water? Does the Pope wear a tall hat?

18. Do you watch the O.C.?
Instead of confessing my ignorance on what exactly this might be, I'm going to say warily....noooooo.
19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
He looks a little bit like Harry Potter, has whirlwind energy, and keeps my friend Pol constantly busy.
20. Do you make up your own words? "Hista kea!" (Well, at least one or two people reading this blog might remember that....)
It's not words I make up so much as that I have creative spoken grammar.
21. Are you a jealous person?
Not unless you've stolen my cookie. Then I might be.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.
Ara! (Who I might actually get to see this weekend!)
23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’. Kim! (who tagged me with this meme)
24. Who’s the first person on your received call list? Er......what?
25. What does the last text message you received say? I'll let you know if I ever receive one. Doesn't seem likely though.
Do you chew your straw?
Absolutely not! Bleah! Plastic is so bad for you!
27. Do you have curly hair? My hair is as flat as Saskatchewan.
28.Where’s the next place you’re going to go?
If all the stars and signs fall into place, Jeff and I will be going to India and Nepal next winter, probably in November as we're really keen to avoid anything resembling monsoon season.
29. Who’s the rudest person in your life? Fortunately I had to think very hard about this before venturing, "Telemarketers?"
30. What was the last thing you ate?
Mexican food at the new restaurant in town. I fell in love with their pottery serving dishes.
31. Will you get married in the future?
I am so so married already, my dears. :)
32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
Y'know, I haven't actually watched any movies lately. Not one. Unless you count YouTube clips.
33. Is there anyone you like right now? I love you all. Well, mostly. :)
34. When was the last time you did the dishes? This afternoon. I came home from work vowing to get three annoying tasks out of the way and that was one of them.
35. Are you currently depressed? Nope. Feeling quite mellow and at peace with the universe actually.
Much better than oh, say, yesterday afternoon. I'm generally on a pretty even keel emotionally. But now and then small storms sail through (on this occasion at work) and fortunately I'm able to stand up and say what needs to be said in a calm, cool manner (outwardly).
36. Did you cry today?Nope, all yesterday's issues have been ironed out so no need to let out all my righteous indignation.
37. Why did you answer and post this? Because Kim tagged me. (And I was avoiding my real homework!)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'll Sleep in a Haunted House for a Bathtub Like That

I spent Friday night in a haunted house.

And I didn't mind at all--Halloween is approaching and it's certainly a traditional holiday activity.

Besides, I was actually looking forward to the prospect of staying as a guest there. I'd admired the gorgeous clawfoot tub upstairs on previous visits... and no mere ghost was going to deter me from having a bath in the bathtub of my dreams.....

The haunted home I'm talking about actually bears no resemblance to the traditional looming Victorian kind with bat-filled turrets and gloomy cob-webbed corridors.

My haunted house is bright and airy and immaculate, with gorgeous waterfront views over Baynes Sound, high ceilings, polished wooden floors, stained-glass windows, and a 1600 square foot wraparound deck to die for. The bathroom in the master suite is heart-breakingly beautiful. It's currently on the market for one and a quarter million dollars and I'm having covetous thoughts.

My friend who once lived there for many years (a different friend than the one who is currently care-taking the property) tells me that the home's original look is almost unrecognizable now after extensive renovations. But it was built in the 1920's and has a colourful history, including once having an illegal still/speak-easy located in the basement.

And there's the ghost, of course, at no extra cost to any potential buyers.

The ghost's name is Jack and he has been seen and felt by many people over the years.

"He's not a mean ghost, at least I've never felt so", said my friend thoughtfully, after I asked about the house's history. "But he does seem to like to startle people. Maybe he's bored. I would be, if I were a ghost."

She looked at me quizzically and asked if I thought I might be nervous sleeping here. I assured her I was quite interested at the possibility of meeting a ghost.

"Well, he probably won't bother you then", came the reassuring reply. She added that the ghost seems to prefer appearing to prepubescent girls. Of course, I'm *cough cough* a little past that.

Jack has been known to move furniture, take small objects, and make a lot of noise. He is thought to be the spirit of a young man in his twenties who died of spinal meningitis in the nineteen fifties. The room he died in is now a small office.

The night I stayed, a group of friends and I stayed up till around two in the morning talking in the living-room.

We'd been warned that the fridge made a knocking noise occasionally and not to be alarmed. Sure enough, it did make a funny knocking sound at one point and we all laughed that if we had been alone in the house with that appliance we surely would've jumped to a non-scientific conclusion if we hadn't known that before.

But a little later there was a flurry of loud banging sounds that came from the general direction of the kitchen. "Hmmm", said my friend when we all looked expectantly at her. "Well, it wasn't the fridge..."

None of us got up to investigate.

That night it was myself in the magnificent bedroom at the top of the house and another woman who stayed at the opposite end of the house in a guest bedroom after everybody went home.

I wondered if I'd see or hear anything. Well, here is my experience:

A loud chorus of barking noises all night long.... AR AR AR..ar ar ar ar ...AR AR AR ...ar ar ar....(Okay, that was from the sea-lions out in the nearby ocean. But, man, were they loud!)

Rustling coming from the bedroom closet. (I went over and opened the door and the noises stopped. It sounded suspiciously like mice, but wasn't that brave of me?)

Fitful sleep with strange dreams about the ghost. (Hmmm, dreams don't actually count as strange phenomena, do they? Oh well...at least I can ask if the ghost has red hair because he did in my dream where he was showing me around the house.)

Whenever I sleep in a strange bed, I always wake early with an urge to prowl around. I tried to be quiet. Hopefully the other guest didn't hear me moving around at six in the morning and think I was a haunt.

I went and stood in the room where Jack had died. It was very peaceful. Lots of interesting books on the shelves. Nothing jumped out and yelled boo.

A French door downstairs that previously opened and shut without effort seemed to resist my efforts at closing it but perhaps it was just feeling irritable that one time. Let's try to be rational here... :)

I ended up curled up in a comfortable chair reading until breakfast time.

So, was there really a ghost? I dunno. My night here was inconclusive on that subject.

But before I went downstairs that morning I had my wonderful magical bath in that enormous tub overlooking the mountains and sea. And that was worth any amount of clanking chains and spooky stuff in this girl's opinion.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Child Haven Dinner

The Child Haven Fundraiser dinner my mother-in-law hosted this week was an enormous success!

Whew, I'm so relieved it's over....every year my fingers are crossed that people will turn out in droves and that the event will go off without a hitch. (Last year it was a bit of a gong show behind the scenes; we were better organized this year.)

And every year the Child Haven dinner project snowballs into a bigger event as Jeff's mom gets a little more ambitious. She spent three months volunteering in a Child Haven orphanage in Nepal so she feels a special connection to the children and women we are helping. (There are eight children's homes altogether in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet. My pen-pal Ritika lives in the home outside Kathmandu.)

But all the scurrying around selling tickets, painting signs and posters, committee meetings, chaotic kitchen work, and the general stress and organization one might associate with putting on a huge Indian dinner for two hundred people was worth it---we raised over six thousand dollars for Child Haven International this year, almost doubling what we raised last year.

My main job that night was to man the sales tables with assistance from my mom--brightly coloured Indian cushion covers and caftans, jewellery, prayer-flags, little purses sewn with mirrors, silk neckties with elephants, so many beautiful little things to buy. It was fabulously, marvellously busy and I saw so many people I knew there.

Bonnie and Fred Cappuccino, the directors of Child Haven seen in the video below, stayed with my mother-in-law while in town for the fund-raiser. The morning after our dinner they left to travel down island to the next fund-raiser in Qualicum. They just never stop! It's amazing--I've never seen such energetic senior citizens. Of course, having raised twenty-one children (nineteen of them adopted) you know they have to have a special sort of energy and dedication driving them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spider Art

I can't help but think that my garden would be the talk of the town with THIS kind of garden sculture on the front lawn....

From a short article on Parisian artist Louise Bourgeois :

According to the artist, the spider is a feminine hero figure.
Bourgeois created the spider sculptures to honor her mother, who was her best friend and, like a spider, was deliberate, soothing, and patient.
Spiders also create webs which refer to Bourgeois’s early work with tapestries—her parents owned a tapestry restoration business—so the web is a metaphor for connection-making......
...While the spider’s body is above your head, (it is over 11 feet tall) you may examine its legs which are smooth bronze, yet with many different bumps and ridges to create the effect of a natural shape. Each leg is different. Here our giant spider is positioned to suggest that she is walking up the lawn to attend to her baby spider which is attached to the Museum’s facade....
Isn't that lovely? I've never heard of spiders described as "deliberate, soothing, and patient" before.
The article excerpt from above describes the sculpture in the upper left photo on this post. The other photo shows another two of Bourgeois's spider sculptures, these ones thirty feet tall and located in the garden of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
These scultures are from a series of six sculptures, some of them selling for several million dollars and one of them gracing the outside of the National Gallery in Ottawa.
One of the bronze arachnids is called Maman, after her own mother. And I'm glad she meant it in a nice way. :)
As some of you may know from my moniker (and some of you can confirm from knowing me), I have become fond of spiders both in actuality and in symbolism. But even though, I like them I don't collect spider things, persay.
Well, okay, I DO have one spider knick-knack. It actually reminds me a little of one of Louise Bourgeois's sculptures. Only it is only two inches high (and only cost me a dollar). And it's lying on its back on my living -room floor at the moment playing dead because my cat thought it might be interesting to eat.
But it wasn't.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Titanic Exhibit

The boarding pass I held in my hand gave me second-class passage aboard the fateful White Star Line ship the R.M.S. Titanic ...

My name was Mrs. Joseph Philippe Lemercier LaRoche, also known as Juliette Lafargue. I was 22 years old and sailing in the company of my husband Joseph, and my two young daughters Simonne (aged 3) and Louise (aged 1). My family was travelling to Haiti from Paris, France on the tenth of April, 1912.

Haiti was where Joseph's family lived. Due to racial discrimination in France, Joseph, an engineer and a person of color, had been unable to find a good-paying job. In Haiti, Joseph's family was very wealthy and my husband's prospects were better.

We switched our tickets from the steamship France at the last moment because the France would not allow children to dine with their parents and we didn't want the separation at mealtime to upset our daughters...

With Juliette LaRoche's biography in my hand (every visitor was given a boarding pass with a passenger's name and history on it when entering), I wandered through the Titanic Artifact Exhibition at the B.C. Provincial Museum in Victoria, now feeling a personal connection to the people on board the doomed ship.

Would "my" family survive? I would find out when I read through the lists of survivors at the end of the exhibit. Until then, I just didn't know....

I stopped short and exclaimed when I passed a large family photo of the LaRoche's on the wall during the exhibit.

There's something so compelling about history when you can see the human faces involved!
When I was a girl of about eleven, I read a paperback copy of A Night to Remember and have been fascinated by stories of the Titanic ever since. I remember poring over the passenger lists at the back of the book, morbidly curious about the fates of the children on board who were aged like me....

The museum in Victoria held many articles retrieved from the wreck at the bottom of the ocean floor. Clothes and jewelry retrieved from amazingly preserved leather suitcases and trunks. Even paper articles survived like money, tickets, menus, and letters survived. I was amazed that perfume samples carried on board by a travelling perfumier can still be smelled! ( We were able to smell them through a glass box with air holes).

(Although microorganisms in the sea will literally eat away the huge metal ship hull in time, converting it back to metal ore, items protected by inedible leather are relatively unscathed. I learned that the calcium in the human bones that went to the bottom with the ship would have very quickly been dissolved.)

The exhibit held pieces of the Titanic itself: metal doors, port-holes, railings, giant rivets, and a decorative metal cupid---after watching an IMAX film where some of these items are painstakingly retrieved by small three-manned submersible vehicles from two and a half miles under the ocean, after seeing the strange bleak landscape where strange bug-eyed fish and creepy white crabs scuttle--it feels like I am seeing human things that have been retrieved from another planet. It's like outer space down there.

One image that sticks with me is a set of white dishes that was found stacked neatly in rows upon the sandy ocean floor. The wooden cabinet that came with them to the bottom had long since rotted away, leaving them in eerie geometry. Brought to the surface, they look white and pristine as the day they served in the Titanic's opulent dining-rooms.

The exhibit showed us like-size recreations of what the cabins on board looked like. If you were REALLY rich, (like a woman called Charlotte Drake Cardeza that Jeff's boarding pass described), you could have reserved a very, very nice first class cabin.

In fact, the Carteza entourage brought fourteen trunks, four suitcases, and three crates of baggage along. They stayed in the most expensive suite on Titanic (B-51-53-55), featuring two bedrooms, a sitting-room, and a private fifty-foot promenade.

What did a first-class one way ticket cost for this supposed one-week ride? In 1912 dollars, it was the sum of $4500, an incredible sum when you consider that in today's money that would be just under seventy-nine thousand dollars!

A third-class passenger (most likely the many new immigrants aboard seeking a new life in North America) bunked with other folks in considerably more humble quarters. (Though there are tales of passengers registering as third-class to disguise the fact that there luggage contained diamonds....)

I'm dwelling more on the physical things I saw in this post rather than the enormity of the disaster that occurred for the most part, but I want to say I couldn't help shivering with horror and empathy after touching a small man-made iceberg in this gallery and realizing that the water that the ship sank in was four degrees colder than the ice I was touching. It was so cold it felt like it burned my hand. Most of the 1500 or so people who died in this wreck did not drown; they died of hypothermia. *shivers*

The family standing behind us in the line-up as we waited to enter this exhibit had a personal connection. The older woman's grandfather had been a fifteen-year-old lad with a third-class boarding pass for the doomed shipin his hand. He got an awful feeling in his gut about the ship, strong enough that he decided the morning of the sailing not to board.

I looked at this man's great grand children and wondered if they would exist today if not for that decision. If you were a man, and even more so a third-class passenger, the odds of boarding one of the criminally- few lifeboats aboard would not have been in your favour.
One of my favourite stories about surviving the Titanic is about a man who also never made it aboard, although his luggage did. He was literally shang-haied, kidnapped and bundled away to the Far East just before boarding. The friend travelling with him figured his buddy was just being late as usual and brought his suitcases on (which were retrieved from the ocean in 1993). The fortunate victim of kidnapping escaped later and one can only imagine that he counted his lucky stars. His friend on the ship perished.

As for my family, the LaRoches? Juliette and her daughters survived. But sadly her husband did not.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Rocky Horror Picture Show

I remember when I was about twelve years old and over at Ara's house for her birthday party.

Her mom had rented a movie for us, and, rather inexplicably considering our age group, that movie turned out to be The Rocky Horror Picture Show which follows the flamboyant sexual adventures of a lingerie-wearing alien called Dr. Frankenfurter from the planet Trans-sexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.

There is a Frankenstein monster who looks a lot like a surfer-dude in gold lame shorts. There is Meatloaf served for dinner in more ways than one. There is a very young Susan Sarandon dancing around in her underwear. There are more corsets and fishnet stockings than you can shake a stick at. Plus *gasp* it's a musical.

Yes, my mom wasn't very pleased at the time when she found out what Ara's mom had provided for entertainment. But I can honestly say my twelve year old self wasn't at all corrupted by the experience. The sexual innuendo went way over my head (yes, perhaps unlike twelve year olds nowadays) and I thought the dance numbers were hilarious.

(My mom has since admitted that the song "Let's Do the Time Warp Again" is rather catchy after all.)

Anyway, this past weekend I had the opportunity to take in the musical mayhem that is the Rocky Horror Picture Show once again. This time, at the UVic student theatre in the company of Jeff, Tai (dragged somewhat under protest) and Chris, and with only an hour's notice. (One of those spontaneous evening entertainment choices that Christopher so delightfully comes up with.)

So this Rocky Horror virgin didn't really have a chance to dress up for the experience, you see. Drat. I felt quite under-dressed for the occasion. Or is that OVER-dressed? I wasn't wearing a single item of kinky lingerie. Oh, the embarrassment!

Because that's what you do when you go to a late-night screening of the Rocky Horror apparently. It's quite an exercise in audience participation.

You can dress up like a French maid like the character of Magenta. You could dress in gold-sequined coat-tails like Columbia. You could put on your pearls and vamp like Tim Curry's mad scientist.

In fact, looking around the theatre, this is probably the best opportunity to use that push-up bra/corset/pair of thigh-high boots, etc. that's been languishing at the back of your closet since who knows when.

Yes! come and wear your underwear in public! It'll be fun!


You can dance around in front of the movie screen, shout out the rude and traditional additions to the script with the rest of the audience, throw rice and toilet-paper streamers, shoot off water pistols, and learn how to dance the Time Warp . You should also bring a noise-maker, a lighter, a newspaper to cover your head, a pointy party-hat...oh, I'm probably forgetting some of the other things you should bring....

Oh yeah, most importantly, bring a sense of fun and a love for really really bad alien-horror-musical movies.

Fabulous, darling!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Old Fashioned Girls

Here I am, circa 1844.
And the photo below is my dear friend Tai, showing off her wasp waist in clothes that were quite fashionable in 1898. Yes, who knew that Spider Girl and Tai were such old-fashioned girls....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Apple Magic

I have found no better way to truly celebrate the spirit of the Fall Equinox, a traditional harvest holiday, than to be outside in the warmth of the newly-autumn sunshine actually harvesting something.

I'm going to write more about what I was doing on this glorious bee-buzzing apple-laden afternoon a bit later, but I'll leave you with these pictures for the moment.....

Okay. It's later. :)

Here's a link to what I was up to:


Denman Island Community Garden Parties follow the basic principle that many hands make light work. Volunteers arrive at various farms, orchards, and vegetable gardens at specified times and dates and put in two hours of cheerful unpaid labour to support the production of fresh, organic produce.
If ten people show up, that's twenty hours of work done. If twenty people show up, a whopping great forty hours of work get done.
I'm mentally scanning a list of friends that might want to get behind this philosophy in oh, let's say, MY garden!
With a good friend by my side, and a huge canvas pouch on my front that made me feel like a kangaroo, I helped pick the gazillions of apples that grew on a mere three trees.
This in an orchard where long lanes of many, many trees populated an enormous meadow.

There were other jobs to do too, if we were willing. There were potatoes to be hoed, blackberries to be picked, and manure to be spread on the garden pathways. The few hours there sped by. I've discovered that I really enjoy outdoor work. Well, as long as the sun is shining and the breeze is cool that is.

It also helped that Fireweed and I had a really good conversation as we picked, and that we were rewarded with fresh-pressed apple cider at work's end, a few of the really good purple grapes that hung from the farmers' fence, and a good haul of apples to take back to the evening's harvest dinner back at the Denman Hall. (Those apples later met their fate in an apple crumble.)

Oh, the food at dinner was marvellous. Fresh, fresh, fresh produce made a delicious meal. Even Fireweed's lobster- mushroom soup (that's a kind of mushroom, no crustaceans were harmed in the making of this soup) was picked fresh from the forest floor. Yum!
And the dessert featured pears from an ancient tree that justy groaned with the weight of fruit. Happy Equinox to all!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Spot the Spider

Did you spot the little spider on the Black-eyed Susan flower from my garden above? He's right at the top of center. That's spider number five thousand, four hundred and sixty-three I spotted today.

Two were hanging from my garden hat at one point. And kind though I am to spiders, I unknowingly barged through and utterly destroyed quite a number of little webs in the garden this week.

Some not so little. :)

Autumn is the time for a spider's last hurrah before winter when things get pretty bleak for our eight-legged friends. Live fast, die young, I guess. Some of them live really fast. You should've seen the fat brown one that ran over my shoe move.

I'm on the look-out for two particular kinds I haven't seen yet: my mom spotted a spider that imitates a large ant in appearance and my mother-in-law claims there are also HUGE SCARY FAT yellow spiders scampering around like puppy dogs.

Spider Girl is on the lookout.

These last couple weeks I haven't been near my blog much.

Partly because it's the beginning of the new school year and that's the time when teachers of little kids everywhere go a bit crazy-busy.

My past two weeks have been full of new kids with new little personalities and new little eccentricities to discover.

Activites have included:

*participating in slug hunts
*tasting mud pies (mmmm...yum)
*dipping myself in paint, glue, day-glo coloured shaving-cream, and any number of messy forms of abstract preschool art
*learning the fine art of cutting out a hundred construction paper leaves without having my fingers cramp
*trying to grow the eight arms which would suddenly become very helpful
*discovering how many pairs of socks have been left outside in the sandbox
*closing my eyes and trying to go to my inner quiet happy place

As I'm a sucker for punishment I have also applied to and been accepted in a Early Childhood Education research/discussion group course through UVic. Once again I'll be a student of sorts. An online one at least.

Another reason I haven't blogged (at least this week) is that I have nearly four hundred flower bulbs in various stages of being planted. (I have my mom to thank for a lot of those daffodils next spring!)

Between my mom's gift and my own budget splash-out on bulbs (daffodils, tulips, crocus, jonquils, allium), I have my work for the next week of non-rainy evenings cut out for me.

It's tedious work--dig hole, stir some bonemeal at the bottom, plop the bulb in, cover up, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. I think I was practically meditating by the time I got through the first bag of one hundred.

The zen of planting bulbs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I love this guy. :)

And we've been married FIFTEEN years today!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Your Own Heart on Display

This is from a BBC news article that made me realize that no matter how strange and miraculous life gets, it can always get a little more surreal....

Imagine seeing your own heart in a jar.

(And I thought seeing an X-ray of my foot was sorta nifty....)

Jennifer Sutton, 23, from Ringwood, Hampshire, successfully underwent an operation to replace her heart earlier this year.
She had developed a life-threatening condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy in her teens.
Now the original heart, which nearly killed her, has been put on temporary display by the Wellcome Collection in central London.
The exhibition explores the medical and cultural significance of the heart.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6977399.stm (Here's a link to the whole article.)

She said: "Seeing my heart for the first time is an emotional and surreal experience.
"It caused me so much pain and turmoil when it was inside me. Seeing it sitting here is extremely bizarre and very strange.
"Finally I can see this odd looking lump of muscle that has given me so much upset."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Helicopter Ride, Part 2

I've just been over to my helicopter-hating brother's blog and had to laugh at his video response to my first Helicopter Ride post.

He writes: "The video below captures my true feelings about flying.Like the ride described by my sister, we are flying high in the mountains above a glacier. Yes, it is pretty. See the beautiful blue glacial lake? Now see the helicopter fly downwards at breakneck speed like a demonic roller coaster that has jumped the track. Now see the man clutching the seat as his heart tries to jump free from his chest. Now see the response he gives the cameraman for filming said event...."

You see, diversity is what makes family so great. Me, I grin my fool head off when I leave the ground. I love that perilous feeling when the helicopter banks and tilts on its side as you circle a mountain-top.

My brother...loves it, er, not so much. At least, that's what I got from his eloquent hand-gesture gesture to the camera-man on his helicopter ride.

Mind you, I don't have to get in a helicopter routinely as part of my job (he's a forest technologist, otherwise titled as the Grand High Treeplanter.) Our pilot (who owns a logging company) showed us some crazy mountainside spots where heli-loggers are sometimes required to land and honestly I wouldn't really want to try to disembark in any of those places.
No, I think I'll just sit back in my comfortable seat and enjoy the ride.

We flew over Mount Washington, somehow looking far less large without its crown of snow and with all its summer-bald ski-runs on display.

We flew over some of the logging areas near Cumberland---it all looks so neat and tidy from above. (It's much uglier from the ground, trust me.)
From our vantage point near Cumberland, we could see Kim's house!

Then we flew down-island towards Union Bay and flew over the log-sort there. We skimmed very low over the water, like a scene out of the old Beachcombers TV show titles, and some of the seals sunning themselves on the logs dived into the water as we approached.

Other seals just regarded us lazily, as if they couldn't care less that a strange metal bird was hovering beside them.

Now we were starting to head for home, back over my town and then....


See where that red car is turning the corner? The house surrounded by shrubbery is mine. It looked so cute from up high. We circled around twice.

The coolest thing about seeing my house from a thousand feet up was that I couldn't spot a single weed in my yard....