Sunday, 29 December 2013

The joys of walking



I’ve started walking again.

I don’t mean I’ve suddenly gained the ability to walk – I never lost it. What I mean is I’ve started walking for exercise, something I used to do a lot but let fall by the wayside, like many interests and pleasures I’ve had over the years.

Actually, I’m a bit superstitious about even mentioning the walking, afraid I’ll instantly lose interest, like I did with this blog.

It was our new dog that made me start again. Her name is Pyper and she’s a borderline sociopath of the canine variety. I’m sure you know the type – absolutely adorable, very intelligent, but behind the fa├žade is a complete nutter capable of ridiculous actions, such as ploughing a tunnel through the snow using only her head, and feats of destructiveness that defy description. I swear, she’s the dog responsible for putting the word “spring” into English Springer Spaniel. She is constantly bouncing through the air, like the canine equivalent of Tigger. She can also stand on her hind legs for long periods of time, just like a giant-sized prairie dog. It’s how she sees above the high weeds in our hay field.

There are lots of things I can complain about when it comes to Pyper, her biggest fault being her unending supply of energy – thus the need for twice daily high intensity nature walks, including a stop by the creek so she can wade and swim in the water (even in winter). She also has an oral fixation involving sticks that borders on the pornographic. The longer the stick, the better, as long as she can get her jaws around it. And she takes great pleasure in gripping it by one end and then running full speed right at you, veering at the last minute so the stick bangs against your ankles or into the back of your knees.

Pyper with a softer tool - a corn stalk

Take it from someone who has the scrapes and bruises of experience – it hurts like hell. There’s only so much of that game I can take before I lose my temper and grab the stick from her mouth, snapping it over my knee into smaller lengths in hopes of saving my shins. The shorter sticks only keep her amused for a minute or two; then she goes in search of another long stick and the cycle continues. And if the stick is a big one that I can’t break easily (in other words, a log), I’m forced to carry the damn thing until I can dispose of it when she’s not looking.

I’m not sure if the walks have been helping Pyper but they have certainly been helping me. I enjoy the quiet and solitude. It helps me think and I write and compose blogs and articles in my head as I walk. But I learned the hard way I need to do these walks with only the dog for company. One of the Goobers decided to come with me one evening and it almost killed me. She just kept talking and talking and talking. Even after I told her I like the quiet, she kept on nattering. I’m all for communication but stream of consciousness talking drives me batty. Now I sneak out of the house quickly, hoping no one will see me heading for the backfield. And solitude – until the first stab in the ankle or shin.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Genius


My husband’s a genius.

I’m sure you already know this since I usually refer to him as The Genius in this blog. Once in a while, I forget about his mental prowess and have to be reminded of his ability to puzzle out the most complicated mechanical procedures. It’s easy to become complacent when you always have someone around to repair your iPhone when it goes all kooky or replace the windshield wiper motor in your car when it goes on the fritz. Sometimes I need a reminder. This past Christmas Day provided one.

The Genius is the youngest of six and, let’s just say, the rest of his siblings are no mental slouches either. There are two university professors in the mix, a retired high-level banking executive, an accounting wizard, a social worker and, of course, The Genius, who works in engineering. Those that still live in southern Ontario gather every Christmas Day with their children (and grandchildren) at the home of one of the sister’s to celebrate the holiday as a family. It’s a tradition they’ve had for many years, at least as long as I’ve been part of the group (about 15 years). A huge turkey dinner is had and gifts are exchanged among the younger children.

Sometimes, the siblings have an opportunity to show off the cool “toys” they received for Christmas and this past gathering was no exception. The hostess of the annual celebration had received a Bose speaker plus an Apple TV system. The problem was, no one knew how to install the gifts so they worked on her antiquated flat screen TV. Various people tackled the problem throughout the day but no one could figure it out. The final verdict was a new TV would probably be needed to make everything work.

I have a bad habit of volunteering The Genius for various projects without first checking with him – fixing my parent’s water pump and a complicated washing machine repair come to mind. So I kept quiet as I watched the small groups try their best to work through the problem. Wires were connected and reconnected, rerouted through various devices. It was looking like a dog’s breakfast of coaxial cable and power cords. I finally looked over at him and whispered: “Do something!”

Half asleep after a rather filling turkey dinner and hesitant to rise from his very comfortable chair, The Genius sighed.

“I don’t want to just take over,” he whispered back.

“Hook the damn thing up!”

Assisted by his oldest nephew, The Genius surveyed the situation, moving cords and reattaching cables. It made sense to him – of course, it was gibberish to me. It took him about 10 minutes to do what no one else was able to accomplish – connect the Apple TV and satellite system to the TV and have the sound come through the new Bose speaker.

It took him a further 30 minutes to explain to his sister how to use the system. About 20 minutes of that involved him standing patiently waiting for her to finish venting about the fact she didn’t even want the new speaker in the first place.

I leaned over and whispered to the oldest in the family: “He’s never that patient with me.”

She laughed, explaining it was a privilege reserved for older siblings.

Later, The Genius sat down again, exhausted from having to go through every step required to use the new system.

“That was painful,” he said.

“Isn’t fighting with your gifts part of Christmas?” joked one of his nephews.

Of course, the kicker is they weren’t even his gifts.

Currently, The Genius is busy working on setting up my new laptop computer. He’s puzzling through how to transfer about 3,200 ebooks and an iTunes library of about 1,800 songs without losing anything.

I know he’ll figure it out. He always does. It’s one of the reasons I married him.

Most women I know tell me wonderful stories of romantic spur of the moment trips to Paris or helicopter rides over Niagara Falls – the moment I knew I was going to marry The Genius occurred as I watched him take apart the under-sink plumbing in a hotel bathroom.

We were in Stratford, Ontario, for my job. I was putting in a marathon weekend of watching and writing reviews for three Stratford Festival plays. The Genius was my guest. We had already seen two – Equus the night before and a matinee of another play, the name of which escapes me. Our final play was to be an evening performance of Death of a Salesman starring Al Waxman of King of Kensington plus Cagney and Lacey fame.

I was in the washroom getting ready when one of my diamond stud earrings fell off the side of the sink and down the drain. Shit! I went back into our hotel room, explaining to The Genius that, like an idiot, I had lost my earring and it was gone for good.

Five minutes later, he was crawling into the sink cabinet, a toolbox from the trunk of his car next to him. He soon had the plumbing apart and was banging the P-trap on the floor. Out popped my diamond stud earring plus 85 cents in change. A few wrench turns later, the plumbing was back in place and we made it to the play with time to spare.

Up to that point in my life, no one had ever done anything so thoughtful for me. It has stuck with me all these years. It can be difficult living with a genius – the banging in the basement, tools scattered everywhere, burnt off eyebrows from those failed experiments. When it gets really bad, I remember that diamond stud earring plus the 85 cents. I think I bought a Coke with it.