Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A NEW BEGINNING



              This photo taken summer of 2013 at the back of Florence's field, St. Teresas, Newfoundland by LC Photography.










          So you didn't get done today what you wanted, so what? That doesn't mean you have to dwell on it. Tomorrow's a new day to begin again. To do the thing that you didn't get done or do the thing that you always wanted to do.
          Let the day end along with the problems and worries that stressed you. Good and bad things happen, it is just a part of life. The trick is to let it go, keep looking forward, to a new day and a new beginning.


SUCH IS LIFE



        Darkness.  Nothing but darkness.  No moon, no stars, just complete and utter darkness.

She listened.  There were no birds singing, no leaves rustling, no voices to be heard.  
A lone coyote howled in the distance and the small dog she held in her arms whimpered as she shook uncontrollably.
The excruciating pain she had felt in her left ankle had subsided, thanks to the three feet of cold water she stood in, although she couldn’t decide what was worse, being chilled to the core or the twisted ankle. Her long brown hair was wet and tangled, and the little dog, that probably weighed only seven pounds, felt very heavy, but she held onto it nevertheless.  The screaming and crying she had done that day had produced a hoarse throat.  “At least I have plenty of water to drink,” she told the mutt. The dog whined.
She tried to think warm thoughts, a steaming cup of hot chocolate, a roaring fire, a tropical sandy beach, but nothing helped. It was impossible to see the time showing on her watch, tears fell down her cheeks. As she shifted her weight, she let out cry that made Trixie whimper. She wanted so much to sit, but then she would be fully immersed in the water and gagging on it. Instead, she leaned against the wooden wall and let the memory of the morning keep the fear at bay.


***

       Lara closed her eyes and in her thoughts saw her Aunt Betty, a tall burly woman with short jet black hair and a dark complexion, placing the food trays on the kitchen table. She was the last of a dying breed, a hard-working woman with no time for foolishness and wasting of time. The woman was the most energetic person anyone could ever meet, something inherited from her mother’s native roots.  She was a playful yet serious woman, and you did whatever she asked of you, and when she spoke, you listened and listened well.  You did not want to make this woman angry, for she had the power to make your life hell, if she had a mind to.  
Lara's Uncle Hugh had come out of the bathroom, hair slicked back, beard combed, shirt tucked inside his pants. He was much younger than his wife, but because he was a smoker, his face showed age. He had given greetings then sat down in his usual spot at the kitchen table.
Lara and her younger brother, Al, had been helping their aunt and uncle with the Saturday morning chores: feeding the animals, shoveling manure, and collecting eggs. It was a small farm with few animals, but hard work even so. Al had just finished with the shoveling and Lara had the egg basket filled when the breakfast bell rang. They had walked back to the main house, stomachs growling. After they had washed up they went to warm up by the wood stove. The weather was always bad once the clocks fell back an hour, but you could always count on the warmth of a roaring fire. 
Their aunt Betty had signaled them to sit down as she placed the last of the food on the table. Spread out on the table was a delicious assortment of breakfast items. The bacon, ham, and pork sausage were made from a pig that had been slaughtered a week ago, blueberry muffins and homemade lassy bread were hot from the oven, and the scrambled eggs came from free-range chickens. Although the oranges for the orange juice weren’t fresh, the juice looked tasty. Everything looked delectable, however, the most heavenly smell didn’t come from the food, it came from the coffee still percolating; it filled the house with its robust aroma. When it was done their aunt Betty poured a cup for everyone.
After the meal was over Lara had gotten up and started clearing the table. Their aunt and uncle had gone to the living room to enjoy a second cup of coffee. Al had gone outside with Trixie. 
Lara had just finished the dishes when Al ran in.  
“Trixie got away from me!”
“Oh, no,” Lara said. “Do you know which way she headed?”
“Somewhere behind the chicken coop, come on hurry up, Lara, if she makes it to the highway she’s good as gone!” 
The highway would be getting very busy soon since their aunt and uncle lived just off the highway, an hour from the ferry, and when those eighteen wheelers got off the boat it was non-stop until they reached St. John’s, a twelve hour trip across the island. Nothing slowed those trucks down.
Lara grabbed her jacket and pulled on her boots.  They went to the back of the chicken coop and started calling to the little Jack Russell.  
“You go that way, toward the highway, and I’ll go this way toward the river.”  Al said.  
       “Alright,” Lara agreed.
Lara had been scouring the woods and was almost at the highway.  The highway traffic rush had begun. She could hear the roar of the eighteen wheelers as they drove past. Her spine tingled as she thought of poor little Trixie getting flattened by those wheels. Her body would be unrecognizable. 
Just then she heard a dog bark, not Trixie’s bark, but another dog, a larger dog. She walked up to the highway and when the way was clear she ran across.  A little path led into the woods to where her aunt’s only neighbor, Maggie, lived.  She heard the dog bark again. 
“I bet you went to find a mate, didn’t you, you little devil?” Lara whispered to the trees. She followed the small pathway through the woods until she came to a small clearing. Straight ahead she saw Maggie’s house and the German Shepherd she owned was barking steadily, trying to get out of his pen.  As Lara walked toward the house the little woman came out yelling at the dog to shut up and there on the step was Trixie. 
The woman spotted Lara as she got closer and recognized her. 
“Hi, there,” she said. “Trixie got away from ya again, eh?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, you come to the right place. Little Trixie here must be in heat, she been comin’ over here a lot lately, and poor ol’ Bowser, well, he couldn’t git it up if he tried.”
Lara laughed. She was fourteen, and old enough to understand the connotation.
“Would you like to come in for a spot of tea?” Maggie asked.
“Sure, love to,” Lara replied, sweeping Trixie in her arms. A shot of lighting lit up the sky as she closed the door behind her.
Maggie was an odd sort, but in the best way possible, quick-witted and spry, not bad for a lady in her seventies. Rain began to pelt against the window as they watched the flames dance in the window of the wood stove, each enjoying the orange pekoe.  Such a cozy place, Lara thought, and wished she could stay longer. 
After a quick downpour, the rain let up and Lara had to get going. She got up and thanked Maggie for the tea and hospitality. She picked up Trixie and they headed for the path.  Bowser let out a whine as his “girlfriend” was carried away. Dark clouds hung heavy in the sky, making it seem later than it was.
When Lara got to the path she saw that the pathway was built up with mud.  Luckily, there were paths all through the woods, so she decided to take the next one further on down. It was gloomy through the path and alders smacked her face. She stopped for a moment to tie the hood of her raincoat. There was a crack, which sounded like thunder, and before she knew what was happening she was falling. Trixie flew from her arms. Then Lara hit bottom with a loud splash. It took her a few minutes before realizing what had happened. She had fallen into an abandoned well.


***

While Lara had been trying to figure a way out of the well, Al had been following the trail to the river, calling out to Trixie. There was no sign of her. The time on his watch showed almost noon. The late breakfast he had eaten was pretty much digested, and he felt hungry again. He got to the river, did a quick look about, and headed back to the house. When he arrived at the house his parents were chatting and enjoying a cup of coffee with Betty and Hugh. He took off his coat and boots and once again warmed himself by the woodstove.
“Did Lara get back yet?” he asked.
“No, she’s not here, where did she go?” his mother asked.
       “Sorry, Aunt Betty, but Trixie got away so I followed the trail to the river to look for her and Lara went toward the highway.” He gave his aunt the puppy dog eyes, hoping not to get scolded.
“She’s probably gone for a walk,” Betty said. “Go get yourself something to eat; there might be something on the tube to watch.”
Al did as he was told and never thought anymore about it. He figured his aunt Betty was right. Lara did like to walk after a meal. She probably found Trixie and they just kept going.
Their mother, Jolene, agreed. The four adults chatted some more then started an early card game as lightning streaked the sky and the rain fell. 


***

Lara felt around the slimy surface of the wooden wall and was disgusted. Her hands stung from imbedded splinters of wood.  She had tried several times to scale the wall of the well, but it was too slimy and muddy. With each effort to get out she became more desperate, frantic, she didn’t like enclosed spaces and this added to her distress. At her last attempt she was almost to the top when her left sneaker caught against a jutting board. She slipped, twisting her ankle, and down she fell.  She felt immediate pain in her ankle and had to stand on her other foot. The board and sneaker fell beside her. Trixie, who had been struggling to stay afloat at the bottom, remained unharmed.  She got so mad at her sneaker she grabbed it and threw it up at the sky. It never came back down.
Trixie barked. She grabbed the dog and held it tight against her chest, craving the small amount of warmth that had been lost. The pain in her ankle worsened. Something crawled across her face and she flicked at.
        “Spiders, I hate spiders,” she said to Trixie. Then she felt something in the water and screamed.  Once she realized it was just the board she had knocked from the side of the wall, she jammed one side of the board at the well’s bottom and semi-sat on the two by six. Her ankle throbbed, but it felt good to sit, despite everything.She couldn’t scream anymore, she couldn’t even whisper, the water didn’t help any to ease the burning in her throat, the damage had been done, she screamed all she was going to scream.  Despite her shaking, throat burning, and ankle throbbing, Lara held on to that little dog as if it was the last thing that she would ever hold. She was exhausted now. And just as she thought it could get no worse, the rain turned into sleet. 

***

Al, who had been sleeping on the sofa, awakened to a clap of thunder. It was almost dark outside. Betty, Hugh, and his parents were still playing cards. Al got up and went to them.
       “What time is it?” he asked.
       “It’s almost five,” his mother announced, “musta did a lot of shoveling this morning did you?” They laughed. 
“Is Lara back yet?”
“No, actually, she’s not. Shoot, I didn’t realize how fast the time went.” His mother glanced again at the kitchen clock. “How long has she been gone? What time did you get back?”
Everyone became concerned now as questions arose regarding how long she’d been gone and where she might have went. Everyone agreed to go out to find her.
They started the search along the highway, following the trail that led to the pasture since Trixie had been found there the last time she ran away. They hiked along in the mud and pouring rain. It would have been much easier if someone had had a vehicle, but times were tough, and walking was the main source of transport. It had taken them twenty minutes to get up to the pasture and another ten minutes spent calling to them before heading back. Transport trucks flew by with blinding lights. Jolene shone her flashlight on the road, thinking the worse. When they got back to the driveway which led to the house, they crossed the road to search the other side. They had spoken to Maggie and now she and Bowser joined in the search. Flashlight rays scoured the area. No tracks could be seen thanks to the sleet that was falling. Everyone called out to Lara and Trixie as they walked in pairs in the ditch and along the paths that ran parallel to the highway.  
Bowser was leading and started barking. When Maggie finally caught up to him, he had something in his mouth.
Bowser dropped the sneaker at her foot and started barking again. His barking drew the others.  Maggie shone her light to where he was barking.
“There’s a hole, me mutt’s barkin’ down a hole!”  
Everyone gathered around the hole with lights shining in.  Lara was up against a corner, not moving.  Trixie struggled close to her thigh trying to get up on it.
“Al, go back to the shed and get a rope!” his uncle ordered.  “Betty, you go back with him to get some blankets.”  
Maggie was trying to calm Bowser. Lara’s father, Joe, was trying to make his way down the well, but it was too risky, if he slipped and fell he could land on her. He called her name and got no response. Both men felt helpless.  Lara’s mother was screaming, on the verge of tears, blaming herself because she hadn’t done something sooner. Maggie went back to her house to stoke the fire. Lara was going to need a roaring fire and since her house was the closest they would head there once they got her out. An ambulance would be two hours away and there were no paramedics.
Joe and Hugh kept screaming at Lara, but there was no movement.  Al got back first and tied the rope around his waist.  Al was lowered slowly into the well. When he got to the bottom he yelled and shook Lara, but again there was no response. He put a finger to her throat, faint rapid pulse. 
“She’s alive!” he yelled up. He tied the rope around her and they were pulled up.  
They were all around her now, tapping her face, trying to get a response. 
“She’s in shock; we have to get her to Maggie’s fast.” Her father wrapped her in the blankets and they were on their way.
When they entered Maggie’s house the heat could have melted plastic. Maggie had run a hot bath, but they decided to put her by the wood stove instead.  They lay her on the carpet by the stove and Maggie brought more blankets. Everyone waited. Jolene held her daughter against her, reassuring her, but there was no response. Then a mumble, a cough, eyes trying to open. 
“Trixie.” 
“Trixie’s here, we have her, she’s fine.” Tears of joy ran down her mother’s cheeks. Everyone sighed in relief. 
Maggie had called for an ambulance and when they showed up, Lara was responding well. They took her and her family to the hospital. Betty and Hugh said thank you to Maggie and went home. 
The next morning, Hugh got up early to do the chores since his helpers were not available. The sky was clearing, the air was crisp, and the storm was over. After that he went over to the well to have a look. He had no idea how Lara could have survived the fall. It was a fall of at least twenty feet or more. He had brought with him a few boards to place on top and walked back to the house. He would get Joe to come back later to fill the hole. Betty had called the hospital and had good news for him when he walked in the door. Lara’s ankle was fractured, but other than that she was doing fine. They would be home that afternoon.
 As the wood in the wood stove crackled Betty placed breakfast on the table, along with a pot of coffee, and they both enjoyed another delicious meal.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

EASY LOW CARB MEATLOAF


This is my one and only recipe for meatloaf.


Turn oven on 375 degrees.

Get out a bread (loaf) pan. Don’t have to grease it.

Gather up the ingredients and throw it in a bowl, starting with the meat.

2 pounds of ground beef
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Mrs Dash garlic and herb spice (you can add more spice, depending on your taste)
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
¾ cup of bbq sauce
Diced peppers, green, red or both, mushrooms (if desired) and onions

After you've added the diced peppers and other ingredients, get your hands in there and mash everything together. When that’s done press it down in the loaf pan and place it in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. When the time’s up take it out of the oven and place the meatloaf (take it out of the bread pan!) on a flat surface, cutting board or plate, and let cool before cutting into pieces.  I like to cut mine up in 8 equal chunks, 1 chunk is 1 serving, which is only 5 grams of carbs and 13 grams protein, great for a diet!

Make yourself a salad and drop a little bbq sauce or ketchup on the meatloaf and enjoy.

Now if you want regular meatloaf, just add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of breadcrumbs to the mixture, or instead of breadcrumbs you can just smash some ritz or plain crackers, or what I do is buy the ceasar flavored croutons and smash that up, more flavor that way.  Then serve with mixed frozen veggies and mashed potatoes and gravy.


                                           

UNWELCOMED IN MY OWN COUNTRY

          When I was a child I was always fascinated by the stories my relatives would share after working in the big city of Toronto, so it was only natural that when I graduated high school I would gravitate there.  As I neared the city, I will never forget the way the blistering summer heat rose from the asphalt of the 401 or the heavy haze that hung in the air.  And I will never forget the words that were yelled out to me from a passing car, “Get the f*** back to where you came from you stupid Newfie!”

Monday, February 10, 2014

ARE YOU WILLING?



Photo taken summer of 2013 at Corn's Shore, St. Teresas, Newfoundland, by LC Photograpy.












          If you will again read the above caption, you will realize that the word "willing" is the key word. "Will" means not refusing to do something, to quickly act or respond, to be ready to do something without being persuaded. Without "will" our lives wouldn't mean much, for it is with "will" that we give meaning to our lives. "Will" is the crucial element for movement.  

          Can you imagine a life without will? Can you imagine a life where you are not willing to do anything?   

          If you are willing to do your best every day, and you take action, any action, you may succeed or you may fail, but if you do nothing, then the only possible outcome is failure.                                                     

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A POEM FOR DARK DAYS




Over a million people around me yet I feel so alone
For they are strangers to me
I walk around my apartment, looking at pictures of family on the walls
And wonder if I will ever see them again
My place is full of furniture and things but somehow it feels cold and hollow


It has been seven years since I have worked
I didn't think that the healing would take so long
At first, there was the pain in my body and then there was the pain in my mind
Now there is the pain in my heart


I look out the window and gaze over the city
Cars go by on the street headed to some final destination
I wonder if they will have someone to greet them when they get home
I wonder if they feel the same pain


How long does one go on feeling this way
Before you don't feel any more pain, before you don't feel anything at all
How long do you go on before you hit the bottom 
And drown into the abyss.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

HOW I DEVELOPED A FEAR FOR SMALL SPACES

The following is a true story.

I woke up to the sound of whimpering.  At first I thought it might have been someone with a toothache or tummy ache, but when I sat up in bed and looked around the room, no one was stirring. I lay back down and snuggled in the blankets. A quick glance at the clock showed five-thirty am, too early to get up, so I closed my eyes and tried to get back to sleep.  Minutes later I heard more whimpering. I sat up again and listened. It was faint, but yes, it was whimpering. I got up, tiptoed to the kitchen, being careful not to wake anyone, and tried to figure out where it was coming from. I looked all around the small kitchen, living room, and finally the porch. The floor was thinner there and the sound was louder. I pinned my ear to the bare boards and listened.  My eyes grew wide as I realized what it was. Our dog had given birth! There were whimpering puppies under there. I fumbled for a flashlight, slipped on flip flops, and crept outside.

The air outside was damp and misty, but warm. I was glad that it was summer break; it was always so easy to wake up early when you didn’t have to go to school. I really didn’t need the flashlight, the sky was beginning to light up with the rising of the sun, but I turned it on; I would need it to look under the house. I walked along the house focusing on the chipboard which served as a two foot frost wall until I came to the trapdoor. I knelt down, and fumbled for the latch. I opened the door and took a look. At first, I couldn’t see much, and then I heard whimpering again and shone the light in that direction. In the far end of the house, under the porch, I saw the shining eyes of our dog Kelly, and a bundle of moving paws next to her.

I was so excited that I was compelled to get under there just to see how many puppies there were. I didn’t care about how much trouble I would get into, I was a kid and kids didn’t worry about stuff like that. After all, what was the worst that could happen? a slap upside the head, a night without dinner, a sore bottom. Besides, I could probably get under there, count how many puppies there were, and get back into bed before anyone ever knew. As a matter of fact, I was sure of it. I couldn’t fit in the trapdoor, so I headed to the back of the house to where the rotted chipboard had fallen away. I got to my hands and knees, went down on my belly, and squeezed under, all the while thinking about how lucky I was that puberty hadn’t hit me yet cursing me with big hips and boobs, otherwise, I'd never fit.

It smelled bad under the house, like mold and rotting wood. It reminded me of walking through the woods in the fall.  I shone the light around, making sure there wasn’t any broken glass or rats crawling about, and saw nothing but the foundation beams and dirt. When I was sure it was all clear, I started to shimmy like a snake towards Kelly keeping my head low so I wouldn’t get jabbed by a nail jutting out of the floor boards above. I managed to squeeze under each beam by turning my head to the side. Once my head was under, the rest of my body could get under. Each beam was about eight inches wide and they were about four feet apart.

When I finally got to Kelly she was beaming with happiness and proud to show off her babies. All were reddish brown like her except one, I figured that one was male, it was a light brown and fluffy. She had given birth to nine puppies. I pet her for a while, whispering soothing words, and then heard someone above coughing. I froze, listened, and waited, barely breathing. I thought I had better get out of there before someone got up and discovered I was gone. I gave Kelly a farewell pat on the head and turned around. I then noticed light coming from the trapdoor. Oh shoot, I forgot to close the trapdoor, if someone sees that I’m going to be found out. I hurried on.

I had made it halfway when a spider web caught me in the eye. I frantically slapped at my face trying to get it off. After a few minutes of fighting with what seemed like the web of a giant spider, I shimmied on. I got to the next beam and turned my head to one side to get under it. I pushed forward, but my head wouldn’t fit under. I pulled it back out and tried again, this time I got stuck. I couldn’t move my head! One ear was against the beam and the other against the dirt. My heart started racing and it suddenly got very hard to breathe. And then my flashlight went out! That’s when I really started to panic. My legs and arms were flapping like a drowning person, I was pushing and pulling my body trying to get my head loose, freaking out, and was just about to scream when I heard footsteps from above. I froze. Taiko drums replaced the beating of my heart and I thought I was going to faint. I couldn’t hold my breath if I tried. Then I thought about the beating I was going to get if my mother found me under there. There was no way I could get caught under there.

The heavy footsteps from above headed to the porch, paused, and then someone came out and walked to the back of the house toward the outhouse. My head was turned toward the opposite side of the house, away from the trapdoor, so I couldn’t see who it was, but I figured it was my stepdad. I heard more stirring from above and knew right away my brothers were getting up. Thoughts of a sore bottom entered my mind. What was I going to do? I started pulling again, but now the ear that was against the beam hurt. I immediately regretted going under the house and began to cry. I heard my stepdad coming back and go into the house. Now there was shuffling about as one by one everyone made their way to the outhouse. Tea was being made, a small fire was being started, and there was small chatter which was barely audible as both my ears were plugged as if they were filled with water. Then I heard my mother’s voice and my underwear got a little wet.

I stayed stuck under that beam for a long time, sobbing. The morning went on with one of my brothers going fishing, and the other outside fiddling with his bike. My mother and stepdad were conversing above. Then my stepdad left, I didn’t know where or when he would be back as I couldn’t make out what was being said. All I heard was mumbling. Then the washing machine started. This was going to be one long day. I wanted desperately to call out to my brother, but he was too much of a telltale, and the other one was gone.  I didn’t know what to do. My ear ached and Kelly began to fuss. “Shhhhhhhh!” I told her and she quieted. I prayed she didn’t move, as long as the puppies were suckling, no one would hear.

I must have passed out or fell asleep because when I woke up all was quiet. I tried to move and yelled from the pain in my ear. Then I remembered where I was and my heart started racing again. I could see sunlight coming from cracks and holes on the side of the frost wall and gathered that it must have been after noon. The light comforted me a little, just enough to get my bearings and figure out what to do. I felt focused now. Things always seemed better after a nap, even if it was in dirt. I dug into the ground until I was finally able to move my head with ease. I shimmied under the beam and kept moving toward the back of the house and when I got out of there and to my feet, I never felt so free in all my life.