The Paradoxical Commandments ☪ ~by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have always loved these simple statements.

What do you think of them?  Perhaps, leave a comment below…

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9 Items to Improve Life a Little

This post is about a few of the items in my life that I really appreciate. It’s the stuff that I find myself using quite regularly or that I need to turn to in cases of sickness or emergency.

socks

  1. Wool socks. I can’t say enough about wool socks. Living in Canada, my opinion is that they are absolutely essential for comfort in the winter months and even to put on before bed on the cool summer evening. I’m not talking about acrylic or cotton. I’m talking about a high percentage of lambs wool or merino wool and a bit of stretchy stuff like nylon and Lycra. There is a huge difference between wool and acrylic and cotton. Wool remains warm even when wet.  Cotton is worse than useless when wet. You can buy wool socks in various thicknesses and heights, from no see-ems to all the way up to, and even over the knee. One of my favourite brands is out of Vermont and is called ‘Darn Tough’. These socks are 100% lifetime guaranteed. In damp weather, wool socks are essential. I always bring wool socks with me when travelling, even to the tropics.  On an aircraft, when the floor is cold, put them on.  In Cuba we had a day of rain and the weather chilled down.  I wore my capris with wool knee-socks.  Cute! Heading out into a snowy day, thick wool socks will keep your feet toasty. If you haven’t tried wool socks yet, give them a try and then let me know.burts bees.jpg
  2. Burts bees lip balm. It’s the best lip balm that I have ever come across and it has peppermint in the original flavour which brings a nice tingle to the lips.  It is expanding into different colours and flavours.  In fact, one time I had a bit of a mishap with a coloured one…Trying Something New ?? (age 38) 💋 which was pretty funny.coconut oil
  3. Coconut oil. I use coconut oil to remove my make up, to slather on after a shower, to soften my bath water, to sooth a rash or a razor burn and to cook with.  It is even my sunscreen, providing a natural SPF of 5. (I also use a shirt, hat and sarong on long days in the sun.) I am not much for commercial sunscreens but, will use them in a pinch.  I just don’t like how they feel on my skin. There are recipes for natural, coconut oil based sunscreens with a much higher SPF due to the addition of various oils.  For example: carrot seed oil has SPF 38-40; red raspberry seed oil has SPF 28-50. I keep little decorative pots of coconut oil in the bathrooms and a large pot by the stove. It is wonderful stuff.  If you have a sore ear, lay down with the sore ear up. Put a small lump of coconut oil at the opening of your ear and it will melt and drip into your sore ear. Keep it there for about 20 minutes. This is always helped me relieve a sore ear.  An Ayurveda teacher who spoke at the ashram that I wrote about here: Ashram Rant 🕉 told us to put a bit of coconut oil, at the opening of your nostrils and then just gently sniff it in and it will melt and coat the inside of your nose. This will help with relieving dryness there especially in the winter months or in arid climates.  One last treat is to use coconut oil in your coffee. Just stir in a teaspoon along with your cream.  Now taste the exotic smoothness of it.  So lovely.carabiner
  4. Carabiner Hook.  I was in the army for a number of years and wrote about it here: I’m In the Army Now … 🔫  The army is a great place to learn about good gear that makes your life just that much easier, especially when you’re living in a state of panic for weeks on end.  Have you ever thrown your keys into your briefcase, backpack or purse only to later have to completely empty it in order to find them? With a carabiner hook on your key chain, you can simply hook your keys onto a belt loop, bra strap, backpack strap…you get the idea.  Solved.
  5. Refillable Water bottle. I take a full bottle of chilled water with me almost every where I go. In Australia, I would have perished without my Nalgene water bottle, even though the water was hot when I went to drink it. We’re Not in Canada Anymore…this is Oz (age 28) 🦇 Saves having to buy a drink when I feel thirsty.  I keep home-filled bottles of water in the car in each cup holder too.  This saves money and helps with the plastic trash problem on the planet and in our oceans.  Another good trick though, is to find a public bathroom, wash your hands and then collect water in your two scooped hands and drink from your hands.  Another alternative is the LifeStraw http://lifestraw.com/  with a LifeStraw you can drink bog water and still be alive to tell about it.  I learned about LifeStraw on a TED talk.  Awesome product.Jaden-Sunning
  6. Sarong.  Going to the beach?  Take a sarong to sun-bathe on.  They are so pretty and not so absorbent as terry cloth towels.  They therefore dry much faster and are much lighter weight.  I learned about the benefits of beaching with a sarong while in Mexico, which I wrote about here: La Cucaracha Report – Mexico 🇲🇽 We had done a long beach walk from Sayulita to San Pancho.  When we got there, little 4- year-old Leo was pooped and I laid him down on my red sarong after he drank the coconut water from a freshly cut coconut.  He had a lovely little nap under a palm tree.  I then walked into the little village to buy another one for Dean and I to sit on. I still have the yellow one today, after 13 years and a bit of mending now and then. It has so many wonderful memories absorbed in it, I can not part with it. A sarong is also a very useful sunscreen or a light blanket to shield against over air-conditioning  (don’t get me started on that!).  In the photo above is my son, Leo, in Nicaragua being sun-screened with my sarong. (La Cucaracha Report from Nicaragua 🇳🇮) Of course, it can be used as a dress or a skirt or even a shirt, if necessary.tick spoon
  7. Tick spoon.  We came across this wonderful little tool when we lived in Virginia (which I wrote about in Prune Juice & Pregnancy (age 33) 😳), where we became quite aware of ticks and their habits and dangers. Here is the website for the tick spoon https://www.tickedoff.com/  We have used it several times to get a nasty tick off of us and our dogs and it can be added to your key chain or carabiner and then clipped to your backpack. forearm stand var
  8. Manduka yoga mat.  I had worn out several yoga mats before I finally got fed up and decided I needed to invest in a better quality one.  The Manduka is that.  It is guaranteed for life. https://www.manduka.com  I’m liking these guaranteed-for-life products.  I have two of these mats, the lighter weight one for travel which I used for 500 Yoga Teacher Training which I wrote about here: Ashram Rant 🕉 and the heavier one for home and studio.  In the picture I am doing pincha mayurasana (pincha my WHAT??! ha ha) forearm-stand variation on my lighter-weight green one.  There is not a single nick in either mat after hours and hours of yoga practice. Namaste to that!castiron pans
  9. Cast-iron pans. A guy I worked with when serving tables which I wrote about here: A Simple East-Coast Life told me of the benefits — added iron to your food– and flavour to be derived from cooking in cast iron.  I knew about the flavour because Mom had used cast-iron at  The Camp ⛺️ to cook up a feed of fish and a feed of bull-frogs (yep!).  Lots of butter or lard and you’re all set.  Coconut oil works well in curries.  Making sure your pans are well-seasoned and oiled is essential. We found all of our cast-iron pans at yard sales.  They were slightly rusty but not beyond a good scrubbing with steel wool and then re-seasoning.  Cast-iron can also go outside on the fire and can be used in the oven for baking or to melt cheese on something under the broiler.  They are heavy pans which do require maintenance (oil after use), but, they are oh so good.  We also have a gas range.  Couple cooking over gas flame with the awesomeness of cast-iron and it’s a real winner.

So, that’s it for now on my good gear items…Thank you for stopping by.  ~M

Crazy Train 🚂 (part 2)

I would ask total random strangers to look into my eyes and see the flecks. The flecks are magic, I would say.

Things rapidly deteriorated from that point.  Luckily our week was almost up.  Mark and his wife began furtive preparations for home while Amy watched over me. I just wanted to walk around the resort and connect with every possible person in my vicinity. Mark and Amy were worried I wouldn’t be permitted on the flight if I was acting too manic, so Amy and I went to the medical clinic where a very kind and gentle doctor, while holding my hand,  shot a huge syringe of tranquilizer into each cheek of my ass.   Amy said that it was enough  tranquilizer to drop a horse.  But guess what, I was still manic with no tranquility in sight.  I popped off the bed like the Energizer bunny.  By the time we got to the airport though, I was calm. Still no sleep.  I should have been slumped over, drooling, in deep sleep. Now, I was taking the hands of total strangers, gazing deeply into their eyes and telling them all about their lives and how to improve it.  Funnily enough, people seemed to really want to hear what I was saying to them.  It was bizarre.  One man told me I was the most honest person he had ever spoken to.  Meanwhile, my brother Mark was running around trying to keep me safe and to act normal.

My husband, Dean flew to Toronto to meet me and take me home to Nova Scotia.   He had arranged for his eldest sister from Newfoundland to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks to help out with Leo while I was sure to be in the hospital and Dean would be running back and forth watching out for me and bringing me what I wanted. Manic me was very demanding (unlike normal me). Ha ha.

The saddest thing about this whole story is that it could’ve been completely avoided if I had been fine with taking lithium. But, at that point in my journey, and because of my disordered eating and body image problems (see the post: The Body Positive 🙃,  knowing that lithium causes weight gain, I refused, absolutely, to take it. So, you would think I preferred the option of going crazy over getting fat.  And that I selfishly ruined everyone’s Cuban vacation because of my issues with food and body image.  Crazy train anyone?

In the hospital they put me on extremely strong medications: anti-psychotics, lithium, antibiotics for the bronchitis and a sleeping aid. I was a walking zombie.  I was extremely ill in the hospital and very upset to be on medication and to be tied down. The nurses constantly told me to go to my room and get some sleep. But when one is manic all one wants to do is relate and connect to others. Even though I was a walking zombie, it was still very difficult for me to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. As a manic person, medications have very little effect compared to what they would on a normal person.  One side effect of the anti-psychotic drug was the feeling that my skin was crawling. It was one of the worst feelings I have ever encountered.  When the nurses wouldn’t pay attention to me I found ways to entertain myself.  I would walk past the nurses station window where a few nurses would be quietly working with their heads down and I would SLAM my hand against the glass.  The nurses would jump from fright as I quickly walked away.  I was sure they had no idea that it was me. One evening, I decided to pull the fire alarm. As the nurses scrambled to get all the patients out of the rooms, I snickered with my hand over my mouth, by the wall. I was then noticed, yelled at and put in solitary.

What  I did next seems unbelievable now that I have my sanity back. I believe they would never let me out of that room. A half hour may have a lapsed  when I realized two things: I had to use the bathroom, #2, and, I was very thirsty. Because I truly believed that they would not come back for me, and  I was firmly ensconced in crazy land, I went over to the corner of the room,  squatted and pooped. Then I started to bang my cup on the door saying that I was dying of thirst. An idea emerged: I would have to drink my own urine in order to stay alive.  It was salty.

Next I started to sing at the top of my lungs and trust me, that little solitary room had great acoustics  (this is a Kris Kristofferson song that Willie Nelson sings so well) and quite apt at parts…

Take the ribbons from your hair, shake ’em lose and let ’em fall. Let ’em fall against your chin, like the shadows on the wall.  Come and lay down by my side in the early morning light, all I’m taking is your time…help me make it through the night…(This is where I would seriously belt it out) Well, I don’t care whose right or wrong, and I won’t try to understand.  Let the devil take tomorrow, cause tonight I need a friend….it’s sad to be alone…help me make it through the night

I knew that whole song by heart because Mom used to play it over and over again when she and Dad were separated but living in the same house. I was in extreme discomfort in the solitary room. My thoughts where racing. My skin was crawling. My mind was blowing. There was no sleep in sight. I could not stay still. Psychosis is shitty.  Truly.

Finally they let me out. I gladly went to my room. My next plan was to escape and run home.

I studied the delivery door to the locked psych ward. Suddenly, I saw my chance to escape into the February night and I was GONE.  Hightailing it through the lobby with my ass hanging out of my johnny  coat, with my SmartWool knee socks and Birkenstocks on out into the parking lot, down the concrete steps, turn right down the hill, turn left, through the intersection and starting up the hill. Suddenly I realized how cold I was and that my feet were freezing. later I found out it was -20°C. If I had gone the wrong way and landed in the snowbank, behind the hospital, I may never have been rescued from the cold.

As it was, two older ladies in a large sedan pulled up beside me as I made my way up the hill. Seeing how I was dressed and with my hospital wristband on, they asked me to get in the car with them for a ride. I must have thought that would be a good idea. Even through the haze of psychosis I knew that my safety was threatened. I ran into the parking lot of the Catholic Church (irony on that not lost on me) and they let me get in the car to get warm. Next they locked the doors and called the police who escorted me back to the psych ward  and back into solitary.  When Dean heard that I had escaped, in my condition, dressed in a tiny cotton johnny coat, he was furious at the hospital.

I was in for two weeks then out for week at which point I stopped taking the medications and became manic again.  So, I was back in for another two weeks.  It takes about two weeks for the lithium to take effect.  When I was home with my family and dog Lady, and I was out of my head in cray cray land, I could swear that I knew what she was ‘saying’.  I would look at her and her ‘words’ would pop into my head.  Ooookay.

Mental illness is a real thing, not to be trifled with.

Lady Jane, 2 years old

La Cucaracha Report from Nicaragua 🇳🇮

We regretfully leave our sweet cabana on Roatan for a day of overland travel on ferry, chicken bus and taxi to find a sweet hostel with a peaceful and friendly courtyard in Granada, Nicaragua…

Leaving our sweet little cabana on the pristine sugar sand beach of West Bay, Roatan was difficult. We had spent three weeks there.  Granted, Leo had been quite sick with tonsillitis, but where better for him to be sick? We had the perfect little set-up for him to let his little body work the wonders of healing.  Now it would be on the road again and hoping to find another sweet situation in Granada, Nicaragua.  Here is a picture of a friend we made and us snacking on tiny bananas just in front of our cabana.

Banana Roatana

We were again on the ferry from Coxen Hole (yes, HOLE!) over to La Ceiba and then over land for several legs to Granada.  When we finally pulled up to our hostel, we were exhausted, dusty, tired, hungry and we had to pee.  Don’t get me wrong, we did love travel.  What I am attempting to purvey here is the difficulty of overland and backpacker travel.  It is not all roses.  No, we didn’t have to go to work everyday but, there were hardships and mishaps which made up the journey.  I digress.  We walked into our hostel and smiles quickly found their way onto our faces.  Our hostel was ideal.  There was a large inner courtyard with hammocks.  There was a smallish pool in the courtyard, a telephone with free international calling, free internet and a little café with decent food and coffee.  Above all, there was a very nice atmosphere to this place and many people were already approaching us in order to meet our little four-year old son and magnet of joy: Leo.  Many touches of the blond hair and cheeks.  Leo’s eyes were wide open, taking in all the new faces. He was such a social guy.

We were given a private room with a private bath and we quickly changed out of our dirty clothes.  There was a hand-washing laundry area on the roof and that was one of my first tasks.  While Dean and Leo unpacked and got cleaned up, up I went and enjoyed the effort of getting our travelling clothes washed.  The scene from the roof was of variously shaped roof-lines of all manner of dwelling.  There were calls of roosters and hens and backfiring car engines.  There were smells of burning garbage, which is never pleasant, but which is prevalent.  A note here on our attitudes regarding Leo and his welfare.  One of us was ALWAYS with Leo.  Not once was he, even in a friendly hostel, left with a stranger.  We just had no idea what could happen to him while our backs were turned.  Kidnapped?  Sold? It was a constant worry for me.  I clearly remember the low-level stress of that reality.  Our precious son needed to be watched by us because there are crazies everywhere.  And sometimes it is impossible to detect.  Although, I’m pretty good at detecting it.  Takes one to know one.

We met some interesting folks at this hostel.  Karin from Germany. Peter from Holland and a big guy named Erild from Norway.  We ended up hanging out with them for several days while in Grenada.  We had met Erild of Norway in the Tegucigalpa, (the capital of Honduras) bus station where we started the second day of our journey enroute to Granada from The Bay Islands of Roatan. We shared a taxi ride from the bus station in Managua and after a couple of tries were lucky to find the great hostel here in Granada.

From an email message home:

Jaden-Thumbs-Up

The next day Erild, with his camera, came with us to find a playground for our little ball of pent up energy (I wonder of whom I am referring?) As luck would have it, we found a park with play equipment on the wonderfully breezy banks of the huge, fresh water sea: Lago de Nicaragua and the next day we went to a 600-meter-deep volcanic lake and spent the day at the only hotel there, swimming, basking and eating wonderful fare at the lake side restaurant retreat.

 Laguna-de-Apoyo-2

The taxi ride there was hilarious.  Picture a 250-pound Norwegian squeezed into the tight front seat of a compact rust bucket.  He wasn’t as comfy at the other 4.5 of us in the back seat though: Karin of Germany, Peter of Holland, Dean, Leo and I were tighter than a can of worms.  We bottomed out a couple of times and all cursed in various languages (except Leo, he squealed) in unison.  The taxi driver being Nicaraguan and Leo being a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S. meant we had six different nationalities squashed into one little car.

We spent the day at a hectic, large, dusty market in a town called Masaya and upon our return literally ran for the pool and sizzled as we hit the cool water.  I’m still wet as I try my best to put a few lines together about out latest adventures.

Tomorrow we are going on a canopy tour of Mombacho Volcano which is a 45 minute chicken bus trip at a cost of 50 cents each.  The owner here, who has a four-year-old girl, says that Leo will love it.  We’re hoping to see some live forest creatures.  Maybe even a sloth!

From my journal, written 1 Feb 2004:

When we got on the bus this morning there was this gorgeous bright young boy of about ten or so selling squares of nutty snacks, two for one dollar.  They were quite delicious.  I winked at him and he didn’t really know how to react but, finally, he smiled.  We gave him a pair of pants that Leo has out grown.

An email home:

Tuesday 3 Feb 2004

Canopy Tour and Haircut — a good day!

Good Morning Family!

We are leaving this hostel today and will likely not have as easy access to internet in the Pacific Coastal town of San Juan del Sur, Nica.

I couldn’t wait to tell all of you about our adventure yesterday.  It was the coolest thing.  We were in the canopy of the Mombachu Jungle for several hours, walking, sliding, swinging and climbing through the treetops and then abseiling down to the ground again at the very end of it.  Truly awesome.  Leo was gob smacked (as the UKers say), as were we. The guides geared us up with climbing gear and helmets and gave us the very serious safety talk. Leo asked a few questions! “Is this the carabineer that my gloves go on?” We could tell that he was concentrating on understanding all that was said.  It was too cute.  He could sense the seriousness of it.

zip line Nica

He started off a wee bit tentative climbing up the initial ancient, massive tree — the ladder was 100 feet long and just made it to the lowest branches. (We were glad when they told us that the trees were not harmed — they strap the trees with canvas and rubber, instead of nailing them, like some of the other companies). We called to Leo, telling him he was just like Spiderman.  Then we started singing the theme song: “Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can…”  That seemed to get him into the spirit of the thing.  From there we stood on a platform, safety tied with the expensive climbing gear, while the three guides prepared us for the first rope slide to the far-off tree.  Leo did that one with a guide but had so much fun and was so unafraid that the guides allowed him to do the next several slides unaccompanied and he even did the Tarzan swing and the 150-foot abseil at the end!  We all had a ball.  The guides decided to DROP me down the tree “Rapido” because of all my crazy antics during the tour.  I thought I was going to die, for a split second there as my heart leaped into my mouth.  But it was fantastic.

On the walk out of the jungle, Barcell, the Senior guide, climbed into a cocoa tree and got us a cocoa fruit.  A football shaped, bright yellow fruit that he then let us sample.  Very interesting.  While the guide was cutting it open we were telling Leo that a Snickers Bar was inside.  ha ha

The road into and out of the park was 30 minutes and was so bumpy we all had a great workout bracing ourselves.  Leo was so wiped out after the tour that he actually fell asleep in my bouncing lap.  It was so bumpy we couldn’t even talk but that wee guy was just pooped!   We were very proud of our little guy.  He is a true adventurer. This is his mother writing though, what else would I say?

Later that day, after a good, hearty lunch, I took Leo for a haircut. The haircut cost Cord 20. about $1.50 (that’s one dollar and fifty cents!!!!) but it was not just a haircut, it was a 45-minute CEREMONY.  The barber, a young, perfectly groomed Nicaraguan man of about 30, was INTO IT.  Seriously INTO IT.  He flicked out that towel. He waved his arms around.  He brushed the blond hair off his face once, twice, three times during the course of the ritualistic haircut.  I was quickly understanding, as I sat and watched the other several clients being beautified: 4 men and 2 small boys, that these people take the male haircut very, very seriously.  The very small boys did not so much as move a muscle for the whole thing.  Conclusion: they have had haircuts of this nature from infancy.  After a brief head massage and then combing, the barber removed the drape, flicked it out and called me over to inspect.  I could see from my seat that it was absolutely perfect and went to hand him the money but no, there was a further step: he unwrapped a shiny new straight razor blade and made a point of me seeing that.  He bent it and examined it, showed it to Leo and then put it into the straight razor.  (at this point I was frantically telling Leo, it’s very, very sharp. You must stay perfectly still.  Freeze, okay?  His big eyes told me that he would obey. With a dab of water all along Leo’s hairline and a flourishing wave of the blade, the finishing touches were made. Then the palm-aid and combing again. This time each hair was placed with the comb.  I had taken three photos by this point.

haircut

Tuesday we will leave for San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast and hopefully get Leo going on the boogie board again.  We will stay there for a few days and then cross the border into Costa Rica and meet friends of ours on the Nicoya Peninsula.

Life is great.  Hope this finds you all happy and wintering well.  We miss you and hope to receive messages from you!  We love news from home!    Next up….San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

La Cucaracha Report – Honduras 🇭🇳

Our stay in the paradise of West Bay, Roatan gets a little scary when our four-year old gets sick….

4 Jan 2004

We are leaving Guatemala tomorrow morning early!  We are en route to the Bay Islands of Honduras!  Finally.  We will be tropical by noon.  Steaming hot and shedding clothing.

This minute, we have just walked into the Casa Santo Domingo Hotel Restaurant in Antigua – simply for coffee and dessert.  It was Dean’s idea.  A good one – pure decadence.  Rich people are so funny to watch too.  A bonus.  We have ordered a whopping three desserts, two coffees and a milk for Leo.  It could be a late night and we have a long walk after this.

8 Jan 2004

It’s Dean’s 41st birthday and we are enjoying ourselves completely in Roatan, Honduras.  We are in a cabana just a few steps from the most beautiful beach I have ever been on.  Our cabana is an upper apartment with a bedroom, a clean bathroom with hot shower and a kitchenette on one end of the living room.  In the kitchen / living room there is a single bed and a TV / VCR.  We are just now watching the movie Titanic.

It feels great to have some luxury because we had two days of hellish travel from Antigua to Livingston, Guatemala – the dirtiest, ugliest, most disappointing village thus yet and where we had to spend a huge US40 to rent a room with some sanity and cleanliness to it.  It had a nice pool which we swam in in the dark.  We were up at 5 the next morning and on a launch for 1.5 hours to Puerto Barrios in the rain.  From there we jammed into a suburban with two Austrians, two Australians and two Americans.  The driver and navigator were Guatemalans and we Canadians.  Five countries represented by we 10.5 squished travelers in this suburban.  Not bad.

After a couple of hours in the suburban, we came to a town and had to stop for fuel.  We all piled out to use the bathroom facilities in the gas station.  I remember feeling like I had just passed through some kind of black hole from one reality into another.  Stepping into the modern, air-conditioned gas station full of convenience items and candy and bags of doritos and with clean normal toilets, was a real treat almost like Dorothy waking up in Oz — from black and white to colour.  They were even selling brewed coffee with cream.  My point here is that we had been on this trip for a couple of months now and convenience items were few and far between.

This vehicle full of us chatty travelers took us the five hours, over dirt and sand roads with washed out portions, small villages and across the border to San Pedro Sulu, Honduras.  This is where we caught a second class bus. Waiting for the bus to fill and prepare to leave, many entrepreneurial-types came reaching up to our bus window selling their wares.  Everything from large, colourful plastic wash basins to, bars of soap, combs, or coca cola in a small sandwich bag with a straw.  They would never give you the can or the bottle with the coke – they needed to keep it to get the deposit back.  

The bus ride was another four hours to La Ceiba and then just the 90 minutes to this island.  Lastly, a thirty minute taxi ride .  Exhausted, we had no idea where to stay and so settled on a pit of a room for the first night in West End and then found this near perfect place the next morning in West Bay Beach.  This picture is just outside our cabana.

roatan

Cabana Roatana, 11 Jan 2004

Still in paradise.  A few days ago Leo was very sick with high fever, chills and a swollen node in his neck.  Coincidentally, the new owner of this place is a doctor who immediately examined Leo and reported that he had a virus.  He told us that Leo would get worse before he got any better…that night, Leo had hallucinations and was in a bad way but after the doctor examined him again, he reassured us that it wasn’t what we feared most – namely meningitis.  Thank god!  Dean and I both breathed a sigh of relief.  What luck to have an ER doctor right here doing house calls to our cabana on the beach!

Greg, the doc, took a last look at Leo the morning he left for home and was certain that he would be fine in a couple of days.  The sea, sun, sand and fresh air all would help.  

Today is a rainy day so we have stuck pretty close to our cabana.  We did manage a short hike to the tip of the island this morning and it was lovely.  We found some pretty sea shells and bits of coral and Leo held a small crab-like creature for a few minutes. 

West Bay, Roatan, Honduras  14 Jan 2004

Leo is a fairly sick little Gaffer.  He was restless last night and the night before, literally waking up every ten minutes due to his sinuses being blocked.  Dean and I are both bagged because of it.

This morning we got right up and prepared for a trip to the medical clinic in Coxen Hole (a true hole of a town!).  We were lucky to find a very good doctor who spoke English very well.  He examined Leo and concluded after seeing a normal level of platelets in his blood test result that Leo has a viral and bacterial infection. We were given four types of medicine: coaxicilan, col-dex ad, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  We also bought lots of vitamin C.  The bill came to 68 US dollars.  The fee for the doctor was 400 Lempira which equals about 24 US dollars!!  We picked his brain about all sorts of things and he ruled out malaria and dengue fever.  It was well worth the effort.

Writing this now in 2017, years later, I recall with wonder the completely awful state of the dirt road outside this little clinic in Coxen Hole.  There was litter, bad smells, loose chickens, rusted out cars and then just inside the door, a long line-up of local people waiting patiently with their many, well-behaved children, in order to see the doctor.  As we white westerners walked into the clinic, with our expensive backpacks, watches, sandals and other telltale signs of our comparative wealth and with our very cute white-blond four-year old son, they ushered us swiftly passed the line-up and directly in to see the doctor.  I felt so blessed and privileged.  I felt badly for those waiting but I was deathly afraid for my precious young son whose health was worsening and god only knew why.

After leaving the clinic, we bought a few groceries, ate a bight of lunch, mailed postcards home, got some cash from the bank and then split a taxi back to our cabana with a couple from Alaska.

Talking to them was great fun.  They told us of two mistakes they made and it was exactly as we had done.  They too were conned by the woman named Laurel who asked us to help her at the ferry landing in Coxen Hole.  She came up to me, we were fresh off the boat, and told us all of her money, passport, travelers cheques, visa card, bank card – everything had been stolen…

Now, I would normally be a bit more discerning and ask a few more questions, but, I had just been on that darn ferry boat over to the island.  On the boat, they issued each passenger two little white pills – presumably for sea-sickness.  I get very sea-sick easily and so after asking for clarification on the pills, and receiving an answer in Spanish which I could not decipher, I gobbled down the little white pills and hoped for the best.  Not something I would normally do, but, it had been a long few days since leaving our peaceful Antiqua.  A few minutes later, I was seated on the ferry with Leo asleep on my lap and I realized that I could not feel my face.  It was the strangest feeling.  I also did not have any feelings of sea-sickness at all.  In fact, I felt awesome.  Looking back, I think I was stoned. So, when the con-artist approached us…

We gave her $20 US and the Alaskan couple gave her $30 five days later.  She had told us that her money was coming in to Western Union the next day.  The next mistake for them was getting a taxi to West End and staying in the same pit we did, but they paid for two nights sight unseen.  Bad move!

Sat 17 Jan 2004

Right after breakfast in our cabana of oatmeal and fruit, Dean was asked to help retrieve the hotel’s car from the airport.  His first driving experience of this trip.  The first time he has driven in two months.

roatan-2Leo asked me to take him snorkeling on the close reef down at the end of the beach.  He has been practicing in the shallows just out from our place.  Now he wanted to see the real thing!  He was very impressed.  He saw some fish and the first outcroppings of coral.  After that, we examined the rock wall at the end of the beach and saw an iguana frozen in stillness.  Leo watched to see if it would move but, no.  We then discussed how iguanas can blend in with their background as a defense mechanism and Leo said, oh you mean camouflage.

Fri 23 Jan 2004

Our holiday here in Roatan has been excellent if we don’t count how sick Leo was with full blown tonsillitis.  We were back and forth to the Coxen Hole medical clinic (called the Jacklin Wood Medical Clinic) three times.  We worked with Dr Raymond first and then with Dr Wood.  They were both excellent.  We also were lucky enough to have the owner here look at him and a guest, Dr Chris, look at him.  We were rich in advice.  All that to say that it was a little scary for a few nights.  For four nights Leo’s throat was so swollen he had a hard time breathing and so woke up, sat up, coughing and sputtering about every fifteen minutes or so.  He was feverish, off and on, for ten days which made the doctors want to take blood tests to rule out dengue and malaria.  Consequently, our little Leo was stuck, like a pin cushion about six times.  The second time we took him in he was given an injection of a strong antibiotic.  On the third visit he received another injection of antibiotic and that night he showed a vast improvement.  Our little guy was quite sick and this was terrifying for us.  I would look at his throat and see that it was nearly completely blocked with ulcers and puss.  Awful!  Thankfully, he is back to normal and sleeping soundly again, much to our huge relief.

While in Roatan, and staying at the cabana, we enjoyed three weeks of bliss (except the ordeal of Leo’s tonsillitis).  Our little upper cabana, a few steps from the sugar-sand beach was very sweet.  We met a few travelers and would have them over to talk about travel and discuss our dreams of future travel.  We met an eighty-year old wealthy man who was traveling like a backpacker because he said it was more interesting.  During the day, we would go swimming in the turquoise waters and Leo would jump in off the dock again and again.  Sometimes, local people would sell us fruit on the beach and sometimes they would sell us cold drinks like a beer and a pop for Leo. At supper time I would cook up a very simple meal for us to enjoy and we would thank the heavens for our good fortune.  As backpackers, how did we afford such a lovely place to stay?  We had found out that the month of January was low-season on Roatan due to the rain.  Using this, we simply asked the owners for a cut rate and offered half the amount.  They went for it, probably because Leo was with us and he was so cute that they likely just wanted us to stay.

Next stop…Nicaraugua

The Jar of Life: First things First

Exactly my feelings on life and told in a fun way.

Balanced Action

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When life overwhelms us, when our mind is a whirlwind of thoughts and we are afraid to go under, it is important to refocus on what is truly important and dear to us. The story of the “Jar of Life” tells us that even if our life feels full, there is always room for an evening with friends or family.

Why stories are important
When life gets tough a simple, well told story or metaphor can help us look at a situation with new eyes. The distilled essence how a character in a story copes with the challenges of life can teach us an important lesson. For a short moment a story helps to quiet our mind, which allows us to take a deep breath and regain some serenity. In this sense a good, powerful story can act as a wise, compassionate guide.

I hope you enjoy the story of…

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La Cucaracha Report – Guatemala 🇬🇹

Guatemala was all colour.  We were agog at the tapestries hanging two and three deep on each side of the main street as we arrived in Panajachel.  We spent one day just walking around and looking at all the beautiful crafts.  We bargained for tapestries and later, met a guy heading home to London, Ontario.  He easily agreed to take woven gifts home for us.  That was a relief as it is hard to carry anything extra on a trip such as this.  Every bit of weight counts when it is on your back for hours and miles.

lake atitlan

From my journal in 2004:

Dean and I are sitting on the pebble beach of Lake Atitlan while Leo plays with four children – digging by the shore.  The water is clear, cool and extremely deep.  A tiny girl just came by carrying an armful of necklaces and hand woven purses.  She is wearing a long wrap embroidered skirt and a colourful top.  Her hair is ink black and braided with colourful ribbons.  Our western clothing is so lifeless next to theirs.  We are constantly asked to purchase their wares.  It gets tiring to have to say no gracious so often.

***

Dean is reading The Princess Bride by William Goldman, aloud to Leo for a goodnight story.  It is superb.  Leo is sitting, utterly enraptured.  It is a great story of love, adventure and survival and it is funny too, as in the movie.

 

Here is an email I wrote home.

 

Happy New Year from Antigua, Guatemala!

 

Dean, Leo and I are well, happy and fat with good food, drink, sun, travel and relaxing.  It simply doesn’t get much better than this!  Here’s hoping that all of you have enjoyed the holiday season to the absolute fullest!

 

Before I give you an update about what the devil we have been up to, I would like to tell you that our four-year old Leo enjoyed a lovely, little Christmas in Palenque Town, Chiapas, Mexico.  He went to bed only after laying out a stocking and a note to Santa at the end of his bed and leaving a huge piece of chocolate loaf for he and his reindeer on the bureau.  He awoke, bright and early to find the stocking full of goodies and a brand new Lego racer toy, exactly the one that he had wished for!  Imagine that. lego-racer-smile Here is his big smile even though his Christmas loot was quite small. The box was just a little bit squished but that was understandable, since Santa had his sled packed as tightly as our backpacks have been.  We then spent Christmas day at the amazing Mayan, jungle enshrouded ruins of Palenque.  Leo ran in, out, up and down the ancient stairs, passageways, tombs and temples and squealed at how cool it all was.  Just like a great big fort!  We took the earliest bus and therefore arrived quite early in the day and so were able to enjoy the ancient ruins without crowds.  It was a very special Christmas.  Later, we met and tried our best to communicate with an Italian family.  The only Italian we speak, though, sadly: spaghetti, ravioli, fettucine, did not really work itself well into the conversation.  There was a lot of gesturing and Leo found this very funny.

 

We have completed a lot of little adventures since Christmas but the highlights have been hiking for several hours, on a tiny, cliffside footpath, around the huge and wonderful Lake Atitlan on New Years Eve day and marvelling at the volcanoes.  We did this hike with Bo and Tine from Denmark.  I nearly had five heart-attacks as Dean carried Leo on his shoulders for the steepest part of the trail.  If Dean had slipped, it would have been certain death as the drop was hundreds of meters and the steep angle of the hill, combined with the loose scree, would not have allowed for him to stop.  I seriously could not look.  Dean was so nonchalant about the whole thing.  He is not one bit worried about heights and he is very sure-footed. Me, not so much.  It was a very hot day and the dust was extreme.  By the time we were done, I was a wreck.  We ate a nice lunch – I should say, we FELL on a nice lunch and devoured it.  It was at a lakeside restaurant and quite lovely.

lake-atitlan-swim

Next we swam in the very deep (340 meters!!), crystal clean, cool waters of Lake Atitlan and then made our way back to our hostel in Panajachel.

 

I should mention that on the way to our hostel, I happened to come across a vendor selling friend chicken and another vendor selling family size (this is what they call 1 litre bottles – family size!!!) bottles of Gallo beer.gallo  Guess what we were having for supper: chicken and beer.  Yum.  It was the best darn chicken and beer I have ever had.  We made a picnic of it in our room – the only furniture being our bed, we put a blanket on the floor and after cleaning up in our cold-water only bathroom, we sat down for our feast.  Just then…BANG!…BANG!…BANG!.  It seems that gunshot was the mode of celebration.  It didn’t really matter.  We were exhausted and slept easily through all the noise.

 

Another great but simple memory will be the ride from the lake to this beautiful city of Antigua.  We were on a chicken bus, which became quite crowded at one point — probably 200 bodies were on this converted school bus.  This tiny little Mayan girl found herself sitting next to me (Dean and Leo were somehow in the seat behind me).  She was a sleepy little thing. She looked up at me with the sweetest eyes, checking me out, then she simply curled into my side and fell asleep like a warm, soft, little cat.  Her exhausted mommy, with three other small ones around her, gave me a huge, toothless smile and on we rolled through the countryside. We peered out the windows agog at the patchwork fields of vegetables on terraced hillsides seemingly too steep to climb, some had to be at least a 70-degree incline.

 

The last highlight has to be watching Leo playing with the various children and other traveling families whom we have come to know as we go.  We were lucky enough to be in the room next to a Quebecois family with three children, two boys age 7 and 9, and a girl aged 13, in San Augustino, Mexico.

 

Leo would awaken each morning with the first light and jump up asking if the boys were up yet.  They had boogie boards, which they took the time to teach Leo how to use.  He is such a little fish.  It’s great.  At that beach Dean had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time for a pick up game of bare-footed beach soccer with five Mexico City students.  He held his own pretty good too!

We will leave Antigua tomorrow or the next day for Rio Dulce and then to the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Here’s wishing you all the best of love, and hugs and hoping, once again, to hear all your special news. ~Morgan, Dean and Leo in Guatemala

 

Writing this in 2017, I fondly remember our time in Guatemala.  On Jan 4th we climbed a steaming volcano.  Going up the hill was somewhat tough, especially the last forty minutes on the scree of the cone.  There were high winds and it was cool.  Leo did very well.  I was terrified at the top as people neared the steaming hole to take a look.  I wouldn’t go near it and held fast to Leo.  Coming down was a blast: sliding on the scree and giggling all the way down.

The only part I did not like was the Guatemalan Caribbean.  Back then, anyway, it was not in good shape there.  A lot of garbage everywhere in town and all along the beaches.  A lot of over-drinking by the local people.  Hostels we looked at were unclean and untidy.  When we arrived there, it had been raining and so there was a lot of mud everywhere too.  We were exhausted and ended up splurging and spending $40 US to stay in a proper hotel room in Livingston.  There was a pool and even though it was after dark, we all went for a very relaxing swim in the pool.  We felt like a million bucks having splurged but truly enjoyed the luxury.  So, perhaps our impression of Livingston was just our perception and tainted by rain, mud and exhaustion.  I hope so.

Up Next…Honduras

A Simple East-Coast Life

Seeing the hand-lettered notice SUMMER RENTAL $700 ALL INCLUSIVE…we knew it was meant to be

I am from Ontario and Dean is from Newfoundland.  Leo was born in Virginia.  How did we make our way to a small East-coast town and how did it become our home in 2003 when Leo was four?

We had been living West of Toronto in a country property for a couple of years.  We had bought it upon returning from two years in Virginia where Leo was born.  (And what a birth it was!! A couple of stories from Virginia: Prune Juice & Pregnancy (age 33) 😳and  Locked Up in D.C. 🔐 )

While there, Dean was working at a huge, multi-national corporation and his commute was 1.5 hours at high speed across the top of the city on the 407 doing about 140 km per hour.  He soon over-taxed the engine of his vehicle and it began to need a lot of oil.  That may have been the straw that broke to camel’s back because, it was about then that I told him that this lifestyle was just not working.  Although I had all kinds of time with our son and we had a big country house, we had large week-end long parties for family and we had Neighbour Night gatherings, his work life and commute was not what I wanted and he, being quite exhausted by this point, seemed to agree rather easily.  I had come up with an idea for an exit-strategy.  Ask for a transfer to their East-coast office.  Even if it had to be on our own dime, it would still be quite welcome.

Sure enough, the powers that were, accepted the idea and said we could move East as long as it was at our own expense.  Too easy for two former Logisticians!  (A Posting to Germany and a Lifelong Romance 🥂) On-line, Dean found us a furnished garden apartment right downtown Halifax near the large public gardens and we were allowed to have our two dogs with us.  We packed our things and sold the house.  We arrived on the East coast, in Halifax, and just breathed a sigh of relief.  Immediately we noticed the sweet nature of the people.  They were prone to smile and chat and just be sweet, almost all of the time.  Even when walking the hounds in the pouring rain, I would see folks and they would smile at me.  This was such a gift to me, the jaded upper Canadian.  Also, I was in the early stages of pregnancy and feeling a bit off.  I would take the dogs out before Dean left for the office so that he was home with Leo.  I would hope and pray that this had been a good move for us.  Fifteen years later, I can say that it certainly was.  Without a doubt.

Two years went by.  (We had lost the pregnancy, and that had been a very traumatic event – the stuff of another story: The Loss of Dane The Loss of Dane (age 35) 💔

We had bought a Halifax house (2 story salt box) but, we were not yet feeling that this was the situation that we wanted.  Dean’s company began to offer some employees an exit package if they would quietly go away.  Dean and I thought it would be a perfect time to do that extended bit of travel we had wanted to do.  Four months in Mexico and Central America.  Could we really make that happen?  With our four-year-old?  The planning began, and it was extensive.  We bought our flights into Mexico, to arrive at Guadalajara…

…that too, is another story: La Cucaracha Report – Mexico 🇲🇽

While away on our trip, we took the opportunity to talk about what we REALLY wanted in our next living arrangement.  We made a simple list:

  1. Live in a small, walkable, nice little town;
  2. Live walking distance to Leo’s school;
  3. Make a circle of new friends;
  4. Start a business together;
  5. Volunteer in our community;
  6. Live in a small-ish house;
  7. Live a simple life.

Getting back from Central America we decided to take day-trips to all of the various towns around.  We spent a day in Antigonish – too far North; Mahone Bay and Lunenburg – too quiet in the winter; Truro – loved the park, but not quite right; Parsboro – too far from everything.  Hubbards – too small.  Then, we rolled into Wolfville….it was just right.  Instantly we felt at home.  People were everywhere, smiling, chatting, drinking coffee and discussing things. The energy was palpable.  The students were all over the University green.  It was April and spring was springing and everyone was out and about.  We walked on the dykes and my cell rang.  It was my sister Eva calling.  I tried to explain to her the phenomena of the dyke-lands (now a World Unesco Heritage Site).  She would see them for herself when she visited in March, she said.  We had a wonderful day and were quite hopeful when we left to return another day, just to be sure.

A few days later, we had another sunshiny day and took the opportunity to drive back out to Wolfville.  It was only an hour away.  We pulled in to a curb-side parking space in front of a Real Estate office on Main Street.  I was the passenger.  I looked at the window to see a small, inked notice done in an elderly hand: SUMMER RENTAL $700 ALL INCLUSIVE 542-5555. I knew it.  I absolutely knew what this meant.  We would be moving here and taking this summer rental. It was another one of those forks in the road that I knew was pointing us in the right direction. As I picked up my cell to call the number, cautious Dean says: Morgan, we can’t take this place.  We’re not ready to move to Wolfville.  All I had to ask was: Why not?

The elderly gentleman on the phone had a cheery German accent.  I told him we had read his notice and that we were interested in the summer rental.  I said: there is just one problem….well, actually two.  Oh? he asked.  I told him that we had two large dogs.  Would they be a problem?  He said no.  They loved dogs.  He said, come on up the hill.

Two minutes later we pulled into the driveway of our new summer home which boasted a beautiful view of Cape Blomidon and the Minas Basin which was an off-shoot of The Bay of Fundy.  We got the dogs and Leo out of the wagon.  While our new landlords were watching, Grizzly saunters over, backs her ass up and proceeds to pee on their basement window.  I was mortified… for a moment.  Hubert and Suzanne just chuckled.  They had lived interesting lives and seen it all.

We moved in in mid-April and a few days later after putting my resume in to a few places, I got a call that I was being invited for an interview at Paddy’s Pub, downtown Wolfville.  I hadn’t worked, for money, in six years.  Overjoyed, I found myself jumping up and down in sheer delight at the possibility of winning the position.  I was clapping and jumping up and down and smiling so widely that Dean just looked at me and smiled.  He knew it was going to be a good move and he was very happy for me.  With Dean able to stay home with our four-year old Leo, it would be just lovely to step out to work, knowing that the boys would be together.

I worked the lunch shift and was trained in a couple of days.  I was told I would be working on the deck or in the hall for most of my shifts. Translation: many stairs. Many steps. Crap tips.  They could have told me I would be working in a shit-hole; I would have been happy.  In my mind, my getting this job was instrumental in us transitioning to Wolfville.  I met and worked with some great folks at Paddy’s and we made it our business to have a good time a work – finding any excuse possible to laugh.  We had a great team and we all backed each other.  I served almost every soul in The Valley and therefore, met a good slice of the population.  This helped with making good friends and connections in a new Province.

For a year and a half, I worked almost every weekend and many nights per week, missing supper with Dean and Leo and bed-time with Leo.  It was tough, physically draining work.  Sometimes customers were hard to deal with and sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was emotional.  One evening, the place was dead.  It was a Tuesday shift and I was working up front.  I saw a customer up by the front window.  I walked up to the table with a menu and my face must have fallen because I recognized the man at the table.  He was a small man with narrow shoulders and with facial features somewhat resembling a chipmunk.  He had been a colleague of mine in Germany when I was posted there as a Captain from 1989-1992.  He had actually hit on me one time and I had turned him down.  So, this guy looked up, recognized me and with a look of horror on his chipmunk face says: Morgan, what the hell happened to you?  The last time I saw you, you were an Army Officer doing well in your career.  Now you’re serving tables???  I almost began to cry, this insult cut to the quick.  I waved my hand at him and said something like: oh, we just moved out here and this is a stop-gap until we have time to find better jobs or start a business.

A year later, Paddy’s had a fire and closed.  I was out of work.  Gulp.

Next, we rallied and started our business which is now eleven years old.  It is going well.  We have never looked back and continue to be happy and content in our sweet little East-coast town.  Our son, Leo, who started here in Primary (kindergarten) has now just started University here and is still walking distance from home.

I’m In the Army Now … 🔫

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence

I went to Waterloo University for one month when I was told by my father that he would not be helping with the expense. He had told me all my life that I would be the only one of seven to go to University and that he would pay my way. Well, he was wrong on both parts of that sentence. My little brother Luke finished with a degree or two, with no financial help. I made it to University but was left high and dry when he refused to help with the fees. I even called my Grandfather, whom everyone knew to be well-off and with whom I had always had a strong relationship. He flat-out refused me. So there I was, nineteen at a huge University with their accounts receivable people hounding me to make a payment. I had worked the previous summers and had plowed my savings into the first payment for residence and for my books. I had no money left. I tried to find a job but that too fell flat. Thinking very, very hard about my current options, and not wanting to just walk away without a plan for my next move, I sat down to contemplate…then an idea struck…THE ARMY.

Recruiters had come to my high school the previous year with posters and glossy pictures of the kind of life you could have in the army. (It was just like that scene in the comedy Private Benjamin when Goldie Hawn looks at the glossy pictures of what she thinks of as military yachts and she is SOLD on joining the US Navy.)  I had been told, after an aptitude test result years before, that I would do well in uniform. Hmmm. That caused pause for reflection. I pulled out the phone book for the city of Kitchener-Waterloo and found out the location of the recruiting centre. I put on some nice clothes and did my hair, hopped on the city bus and made my way there. I walked in to find a young man in uniform sitting behind the desk. He asked me all about my high school life and extra-curricular activities. When he heard that I was active and sporty and had good marks, he told me that I was, in his words: Officer Material. Wonderful I said. What next. He told me to come back with a thousand word essay about why I wanted to get in the forces. He said there would be an aptitude test when I returned. I went back to rez on a mission. From there, I wrote the essay, took and passed the test and checked out of Waterloo University.

The week I arrived back in Walden, I moved in with my Mother and her alcoholic boy-friend. I had no bedroom. I slept on the couch. I found two jobs serving tables. One at a five-star restaurant and the other at a bar on the opposite end of town. Living in this way brought me down. It was a tough winter.  All my high school friends were away at school except Flo who was at the Walden community college. Thankfully I had a good steady job to go to every day.  My boss was a womanizing prick from North Africa, who would lean in to talk to me just a little too closely, but, that is another blog post.  At least I had a steady gig and it got me up and out and talking to people and making a bit of money every day.  The chef at the five-star restaurant taught me one or two things about the joy of good food.  He was extreme in his thinking and very sharp in his opinions. Swiss.

In April I got the call that I had been accepted into the forces for Officer Training and would need to attend a swearing-in ceremony in downtown Toronto. Next was Basic Training which would begin in June and last for six weeks. At that point, I didn’t know where I would be sent, after basic, but had been informed that the Canadian Forces would be sending me to University and that I would also receive a salary while at school. That sounded promising.

Basic Training took place in Chilliwack, BC at the Officer Candidate School. The six weeks went by in a blur of running, push ups, inspections, weapons training, map and compass training and combat field training: how to erect a hoochie, dig a latrine, march with a rucksack and the beginnings of how to issue Orders, amoung many other things like: combat first-aid, introduction to code and de-coding, bed-making with sharp corners, folding shirts into an exact square, sock-rolling, knot-tying and more. I found it fascinating, most of the time, and did well on this training, passing in the top third of my platoon: ‘Nine Platoon – DOGS OF WAR’.


The word came down that after Basic Training, I would be going to Royal Roads Military College outside of Victoria, in Sooke, BC. I was told that the first month, or, ‘Recruit Term’ would be very difficult, but, that I should stay positive and it would pass quickly.  ‘Difficult’ was an understatement: Recruit Term was hell on earth. I cried myself to sleep every night.

A typical day of Recruit Term began with pounding rock music at 5:30 am. Our wake-up song for our flight was April Wine’s What a Night. What a Night starts with a fire alarm bell mounted on a cymbal stand being rang at a fast pace. It truly was the perfect harsh sound to get the heart racing and get the panic started for the drills for the day. We had until the end of the song to be up, dressed, toileted, bed made and ‘layout’ ready for inspection. Everything in the room had to be ‘laid out’ to specific standards. For instance, our uniform shirts had to be folded to exactly 25 x 30 cm, ironed and TAPED into our top drawer. Socks had to be rolled into a tight little ball, in a specific manner that we were shown and TAPED into the drawer. Same with pants. Boots and gators had to be polished and spit-shone to a high-gloss. We had three uniforms in our closet which had to have all buttons done up and all lint removed. The problem was, there was absolutely no free-time to do these things. So, we did them in the middle of the night and we were all quite sleep deprived already from basic training.

After morning inspection, we were run, that is: we ran over to the next building to the mess hall for breakfast where we would try to choke down some food but we were constantly being yelled at and ‘steadied up’ by our superiors. ‘RECRUIT, DON’T YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT TO USE YOUR LEFT HAND TO EAT YOUR TOAST??! STEADY UP WHEN I ADDRESS YOU.’ At this point, with his face inches from mine, and he breathing terribly hard, hot breath, I would have to sit at attention with arms straight down my sides and with tight fists say, ‘YES MR MAYLOR. NO MR MAYLOR. I WILL DO BETTER MR MAYLOR’…suffice to say, with all of the interruptions and the stress of being inspected so closely by our superior cadets, it was nearly impossible to eat. After a couple of weeks of Recruit Term, my uniform pants were falling down as I ran.

After breakfast there would be hours of panic drills where we were made to complete some task and then stand for inspection. It may be to lay out our rifle with all parts displayed, by the end of the song. It may be to put on our dress uniform and then stand for inspection by the end of the song…remembering that our rooms and beds and cupboards and dresser had to be completely perfect, not just our person. There was a lot of insults and yelling: ‘RECRUIT, YOU ARE A COMPLETE BAG OF EXCREMENT. RECRUIT, YOU ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE CANADIAN ARMED FORCES. RECRUIT – GET DOWN AND GIVE ME 25 PUSH UPS ON YOUR KNUCKLES.’ It went on for hours. There would be another run over to the next building for lunch and a muster before lunch where we would have to stand in completely straight lines and have our uniform looking sharp – which was impossible after the previous activities. We would all be sweating, shirt tails hanging out, pants drooping, laces untied and females’ hair buns falling out. So more yelling and insults. ‘YOU PEOPLE ARE MAGGOTS – LESS THAN MAGGOTS. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.  MARK TIME’!!!!  This is where we would march in place with knees as high as our waist, sweating profusely.  Next, try to eat.  Not likely.

After lunch, we would be taken running, sometimes with rifles, for an hour or so in the woods of the College grounds. The woods were absolutely beautiful. A temperate rain forest. Our physical fitness instructor was Mr Snellwood. He was a kinder soul and once, at the beginning of Recruit Term, he sat us all down in the woods and tried to reassure us that we would all pass recruit term, as long as we stayed diligent and showed that we were working hard. I was sitting there thinking about the 3 more weeks that had to be endured. I thought he was sweet and kind, but, I also had serious doubts about whether I would pass or could ‘keep up’ with this system.

We were allowed a two-minute shower after running and then we were back at the panic drills. Every now and then, something not-so-hard was offered. Like: Chapel visit, uniform fitting, tour of the Japanese Gardens, tour of the boat shed, tour of Hatley Castle and then there were mini lectures like: etiquette in mess hall which was instruction on how to use all of the various cutlery and glasses that were part of a mess dinner function. As Officers, we would be attending these nice dinners several times per year, and we needed to know how to sit properly at a formal table and how to use the formal dining layout.

One time, they hauled us all out of bed early. And, I do mean, hauled. We were blind-folded and we were taken out into the back woods. This was the Escape and Evasion exercise. Our superior cadets were talking in bad Russian accents and we were to pretend that we had been captured by enemy forces. In the woods, they had us get down on our bellies and they told us that we would be set free and that there would be a prize for the first recruit to make it back to barracks without being re-captured. They left and we all got up and removed the blind folds. We all started wandering around. I hooked up with a couple of people and we began to walk. We had no idea which way to go and it was a large area, acres and acres of woodland. After walking for a couple of hours, we came upon a huge blackberry patch just completely laden with huge, shining, juicy blackberries. We fell on it and started to gorge ourselves. I must have had blackberry juice all over my face. They were better than delicious. They were scrumptious. And no one to ‘steady us up’….we thought. All of a sudden: RECRUITS HALT. HANDS UP. TURN AROUND. We were re-captured and would not be winning any prize today. The berries were worth it though.

After supper, we were given study time, or time to do some tasks that they wanted us to do. One evening they told us to write an essay about our lives so that our section commanders could get to know us better. I started off with the COSSA Basketball tournament that my Dad was coaching and then into the camp details and high school sportiness. I had heard our section commander say he was originally from Huntsville, Ontario which is just south of the where the camp is. So, I made sure to mention Huntsville. Later that evening, we gathered with our sister flight and some of the essays were read aloud. Mine was picked. I read it aloud and when I came to Huntsville, I looked up at Mr Maylor. He grinned at me. I had made a connection. Now I was a little more hopeful that I would make it through this hell month.

At bed time we had another routine to endure. We had to do 100 sit-ups in the hallway by pinning our toes under the heater and with knees bent and fingers laced behind the head, pump them off. There was a catch. We had to do 100 sit-ups, take a shower AND brush our teeth by the end of our ‘goodnight’ song: Stairway to Heaven. I did not wash my hair for 30 days. I kept it tightly braided and would wash just my bangs. There was one shower and two girls on our flight. The two of us showered together. Writing this thirty years later, it seems bazaar that we would shower together. But we did. We just did.

On the final day of Recruit Term, we had the obstacle course and all recruits had to pass this final test. The Obstacle Course was a 5 km course through the woods with obstacles the whole way. Most of the obstacles involved dunking the head fully under into mud to say, get under a barrier or to jump over a barrier only to land fully in mud. There was a rope wall to climb with a fall into a muddy pond; balance-beam fast crossing of a mud river with a necessary dismount into…you guessed it…MUD. I looked up at one obstacle to see a boy from my street back in Walden (he had actually been a boyfriend of mine but was now dating Sally, my good friend since kindergarten). He was yelling at me to GO! YOU CAN DO THIS MORGAN. YOU CAN DO THIS MORGAN PLAYER – he kindly was not using the word recruit to cheer me on. I remember thinking in my exhausted haze that that was very kind of him.

The final obstacle, when exhausted and with mud in every orifice, was to swim across a deep, lily-pad covered pond in combat boots. This was an individual test. Ironically, we were not allowed to help each other on any part of the obstacle course. Ironic because up until that moment it was ALL team work. I recall thinking, when I got to the pond, this will be a piece of cake. I would think this way due to all the swimming in my childhood and even in lily-pad covered ponds. Thank goodness I passed it. Afterwards I showered for 30 minutes but still had mud in my ears. I passed Recruit Term at the top of my flight.

We then had a big celebration down at the cadet mess that was called, DECKS. We had a big supper and lots of drinks. We had been told to dress up in nice civilian clothes or, civvies. Now we females were visually checked out by the senior cadets. As a young woman with certain healthy curves, long dark wavy hair, green eyes, straight, white teeth and full lips with a good fashion sense –I wore a blue knit, V-neck dress with a wide belt synched tightly around my tiny waist and leather pumps. I turned some heads at this celebration. (I was not beautiful, nor was I pretty, but, I was certainly attractive and the ratio of women to men was 1:8, so good odds that I would turn some heads). What a difference a shower, clean hair, some lipstick and civvies can make. It was a fun night. I should mention that I have not often shrank from having a fun time at parties. I enjoy being quite silly and having conversations with all sorts, especially handsome young, athletic and intelligent men. I also don’t suffer fools. So, if the guy couldn’t keep up his end of an interesting, or, even silly conversation, then I would just move on.

The academic year began with classes, assignments, essays, exams and social experiences. The difference, at Military College is that almost every weekend was jam packed with military or varsity sport requirements in the form of parade and parade practice and athletic events and competitions. The schedule was brutal.

At Thanksgiving, a friend – Cindy and I, decided to get off campus and away from it all.  We had been more or less locked up for a couple of months and ready to just wear our jeans and hit the open road for a wee adventure.  With a back pack each, we hitch-hiked a couple hours up island to Lake Cowichan where we had booked a cabin for two nights.  Our first ride got us most of the way there.  Then, we were stuck for a bit on some country road with the sun going down over the next hill.  This is nothing, I thought.  We’ve just passed through hell and found some freedom.  Nothin’ is getting me down now.  On that note, a red pick-up pulled over to offer us a lift.  The man inside was more than a little scary looking with wild eyes and even wilder hair.  Cindy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and hopped in.  He turned out to be a decent fellow and he dropped us at our rented cabin.

Next: what should we do with our free evening.  We had heard tell of a dance in a hall nearby.  We gussied ourselves up and with blue jeans and jean jackets and big hair, off we went…only to find five or six of our classmate cadets already there.  Not sure how that happened exactly but it was sure to be fun.  Well, when you work hard, it only seems natural to also play hard.  That is what we did.  We basically started dancing and didn’t stop for a few hours.  At one point during Rock Lobster, we were all down on the hard-wood floor doing the worm.  Yes, just like it sounds.  Squirming.  Full-body contact with the floor.  It was hilarious.  Likely one of the most fun nights of my entire life due to its spontaneity, timing and remote location.  We ended up meeting a couple of local fellows that night and took them back to the cabin with us.  Appetites were satiated, in a sense.

Come the summer, it was time to take French courses at Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, On. RMC is set on several areas with significant lake frontage and several huge piers on Lake Ontario. That summer was a lot of fun. Being in the city of Kingston was exciting and the summer sun would see us sunning on the big docks on campus and running and jumping off the piers and swimming in Lake Ontario. That was the summer my friend and I met a couple of guys while driving on the 401 to Toronto. Communications were done while driving side by side at high-speed via black sharpies and large note pads. Writing greetings and then holding them up to the window for the fellas in the nearby car to read. This was before cell phones, remember. We ended up asking them, by note, to meet us in downtown Toronto at MR GREEN JEANS restaurant in the Eaton’s Centre. They made it! And, we had a lovely dinner with them: Doug and J.R.. We went to the Hard Rock Café afterward until my bus was ready to depart for Walden. (My friend had already driven off to her home in Bradford and J.R. and Doug had already registered for the 10km run early the next morning in Toronto). J.R. and I ended up dating all summer until it was time for me to go back to Victoria, BC. Interestingly, he was a southern lad and a lieutenant in the US Army and was stationed across the border from Kingston in Fort Drum near Watertown, NY. It ended there, but, it had been fun.

Second year began at Royal Roads Military College (RRMC). My heart was not in it. I didn’t enjoy the academics. Several of my profs struggled with the English language, even my English prof. It was not how I wanted to spend my prime years. I made it known that I was interested in the program allowing a cadet to go straight into a career. I got it, but it was not until the following year. I was told I would become an Army Logistics Officer and that training would begin in October 1988 in Borden, Ontario. What would happen to me for the year???

I was put to work in the Castle, Hatley Castle at RRMC. Severely boring work, just managing paper and simple tasks. I had to do quite a bit of photocopying and would inevitably run into this same civilian woman working there. She would ask me every time I saw her: You’re still here? I would have thought they would have come up with a better occupation for you by now. Hmmm. Thanks. It’s not like I wasn’t already feeling like a fish out of water. I was then sent to Comox, BC, up island, to help with administration at the Air Traffic Control Tower. That was interesting. The best thing about it was learning how to use a word processor called Word Perfect. That came in handy later.

I began playing on a slow pitch team and met some good folks. One of them was Stevie Henderson. Steve was a lumberjack up in Tofino. He was also an avid mountain biker. He and his buddy and I would go on mountain biking day trips to Denman and Hornby Islands. Challenging trails but extremely fun too. Suddenly, it was time to go East.

I bought a new little car: a 1988 Chevrolet Sprint, 3 cylinder. I began the journey across Canada, stopping each night in a flea-bitten crap motel advertising colour tv, my ass sore and my eyes glazed over from the miles and miles of the day. It took me six days to arrive in Leefotd, Ontario at my eldest sister Eva’s house. I scared the living be-jesus out of her, walking into the house unannounced and finding her concentrating on something. She was so happy to see me, jumping up and down, screaming, crying and hugging me. No kidding. We Players take our greetings seriously. She wanted to know how long I could stay. I told her about heading to Borden for a course the next day. I could stay only one night. It was a nice time and we caught up on all the news.

It was a couple of hours drive to Base Borden where I started my clearing in process: getting the key to my single barracks room mainly. Classes started the very next morning for the Basic Logistics Officers Course. The first person I met on the course is now my husband. When I met him, we were both hanging up our Army issue trench coats. Our eyes met and he smiled at me and said hi. I saw stars. I was instantly in love with this very good looking dark haired, green-eyed man. Later we had an English grammar test and he achieved a perfect score. I knew then that it was him. He was gorgeous, sweet, gentle and intelligent. When I saw him kick a soccer ball, I swooned. It was poetry in motion.