Monthly Archives: April 2012

Always on call

On Saturday night, Travis and I got all dressed up and went dancing.

The occasion was the annual firemen’s ball – a dinner honouring the volunteer firefighters and firettes, and a dance for the whole community.

Apart from one inglorious conversation with our inglorious MHA, it was a wonderful night.

The speeches are all rather predictable, but how many ways are there to say thank you?

I’ve written about the volunteer department before. But I’m not sure I adequately represented what, exactly, the fire department does.

We have almost 20 firefighters and a dozen firettes.

These firefighters are volunteers.
These firefighters attend meetings every week.
These firefighters are on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is no on-call rotation. When there is a community event – the firemen’s ball or a wedding, for example, a neighbouring fire department will be on standby – another crop of volunteers – because volunteer firefighters can’t simply lay down their hoses and say, sorry, friends – no fire protection service tonight.
These firefighters leave their jobs, families and homes to come save your job, family and home.
These firefighters attend accident scenes.
These firefighters pull people from wrecked vehicles.
These firefighters perform first aid and CPR and call for ambulance and police service.
These firefighters wade through torrents of water to knock on your grandparents’ door to make sure they have enough water, wood, food and medicine to see them through a Hurricane.
These firefighters give up hours of personal and work time to train themselves in firefighting, first aid and emergency/disaster response.
These firefighters write grant and funding applications to keep themselves trained, their trucks on the road and their fire hall open.
These firefighters do not get paid.

These firettes are volunteers.
These firettes attend meetings every week.
These firettes fundraise for every penny that goes into the trucks, pumps, bunker suits, helmets, pager system and power bill.
These firettes answer phones and tend the radio when the firefighters are on the scene of an emergency.
These firettes do not get paid.

The local fire department is not very busy, at least not with emergency calls. That is a good thing. But all these meetings, training and fundraisers must still go on so that when a call comes – like it did yesterday, mere hours after the last dancers left the dance floor – there are firefighters and firettes ready and able to respond.

I’m not religious and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve attended church in the past five years. (In fact, if my friends would stop getting married and having babies, I wouldn’t have to go at all). But the Firemen’s prayer always makes me cry.

When I am called to duty, God
whenever flames may rage,
Give me the strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child
Before it’s too late,
Or some older person
from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert
And hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling
and give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbour
And protect his property.

And if according to Your will
I am to lose my life,
Please bless with Your protecting hand
My children and my wife

– A.W. “Smokey” Linn


Listening: a $12,000 glass of water

It was a noisy day.

Also: expensive.

But let’s talk about the noise.

Last week there was a diesel drilling rig. A miniature version of the towers that mare the rural landscape in Alberta.

Today, there was a backhoe digging in 4-ft ditch around my house. Shuffling dirt and clay to one side, beeping as it backed up and creaking as it swivelled on its axis.

Then there was the hammering coming from the sunroom roof. It was in desperate need of new shingles, so we took advantage of the heat of the day.

I was doing the hammering, so I had a birds-eye view of the excavation, pipe-laying and electrical work. I also got to hear the men discuss how to avoid the sewer, whether they had enough wire and what to do with all that scrap lumber. It was the perfect place to be – perched atop the roof. I was out of the way, but could still see and hear all the action.

And finally, at the end of the day there was the sound of running water.

Grey, cloudy water.

But it will soon run cool and clear.

And that will be the sweetest sound of all.

Today: Listening

And that’s a wrap! Check out to link to dozens of other bloggers spinning their own stories of Change, Words, Pictures, Age and Listening.

This was fun!

AGE: What’s snow and ice got to do with it?

For the longest time, I used this as my facebook profile photo:

That’s not the high arctic or the Rockies. That’s Signal Hill on a particularly frigid day in January 2007.

The hill can be treacherous at the best of times, but that day the snow had crusted over thanks to a dose of freezing rain. It turned all the West-facing slopes into bobsled runs: slick, fast, and dangerous.

We could have used crampons and ice picks. Instead, we threw ourselves off the rocks and slid like seals across the expanse of ice, before bringing up solid on the next ridge of rock or a patch of bare, hard ground. (The wind blows so fiercely that the snow drifts into feet-high drifts in places, leaving other patches of frozen grass bare).

There were three of us that day: my sister, myself and an Aussie friend visiting NL for the first time.

Our friend was 31 at the time – a dentist and musician who had taken a year off to travel the globe. As I threw myself across the ice, she was a little more careful with her step. I commented that she was being careful only because she hadn’t grown up around snow and ice.

No, she said. (She was a mad adventurer herself). She was being careful because she was “old.” Since she hit her late 20s, she couldn’t jump off rocks and barrel down hills the way she used to. Oh she could DO it, but she would know about it the next day. So she chooses to step with more care and not subject her body to repeated hard landings on hard ice and rock.

Fair enough, I said. I understood.

But what I actually thought was, “The day I have to slow down and watch my step on snow and ice will be the day I die.”

Turns out, I was an impertinent little 22-year old.

Here I am now, not yet 28, and running back to the house for my hiking boots when I’m only going across the road and down the bank to our beach. My old cycling injury flares up when it rains (seriously). I slipped on the ice in our Alberta driveway and was sooooore the next day.

Is it age? Can my ankles really no longer hold their own over a few loose stones?
Is it fitness? I’m sure as hell not the athlete I once was, although thanks to a few New Year’s Resolutions that is changing.
Or is it maturity, knowing that a twisted or broken ankle now would be a lot more complicated to handle than as a single gal?

A little bit of all three – I can’t do much about the first nor last, but I think I’ll take myself out for a run this afternoon, the gale of wind be damned.

I’m not old yet.

Today: AGE


PICTURES: A picture of a pitcher, to be precise

Jug. Ewer. Flask. Carafe. Vessel.

I like all these words. (For you wordy types, ewer is a common crossword answer, and an excellent one to have in your Scrabble arsenal.)

I bought this particular pitcher from a shop in Carcasonne some nine or 10 years ago. It serves often as a vase, water jug, coffee urn, lemonade pitcher or wine decanter. Not all at once, of course, though I love its versatility.


Tomorrow: AGE

WORDS: The little word that launched an epic meltdown

The day before I peed on a stick and learned Sylvia was on her way, I lost my temper at work.

Actually that’s putting it mildly.

I freaked the eff out and lost it completely on one of my colleagues.

I was working for a weekly newspaper at the time, and as any community journalist knows deadline days come fast and furious. They are filled to the brim with red pens and cropping photos and brainstorming headlines and shuffling ads around to make everything fit.

That particular day (it was a Monday) we were handing pages of copy (articles) back and forth across the hall as we all edited each other’s work. I flagged a misused word. It was something rather innocuous, but the wrong word in its place was comical. (Like mixing up accepted and excepted or toe and tow. More serious, yet rarer than your average your/you’re/yore mix-up).

Instead of explaining the different meanings and sharing a laugh over it, I picked up my (hefty) Oxford Canadian tome and hurled myself across the hall. I slammed the book on his desk and shouted, “Use a FUCKING dictionary!” before storming back to my office.

Once the calm had been restored an hour or so later, another colleague suggested I may be pregnant.

Turns out, I was.

I don’t remember what word cause me such grief that day. In fact, I’ve since combed that edition a couple of times, trying to find the word that would have put me over the edge. I’ve never found it. My former-colleague and friend remembers the outburst (as well one would) but not the word either. I guess I’ll have to wait til I’m pregnant again to know.

In the meantime, I pay closer attention to misused words. They’re not always synonyms, and goodness knows I don’t always catch them before I publish (either here, or in my offline work), but they make me smile.

Here’s a few I’ve come across lately. Synonyms and similar words with completely different meanings:


Today: WORDS.

Tomorrow: PICTURES.

CHANGE: Crib-to-toddler bed

Two weeks ago I wrote about parenting advice that just doesn’t apply to me, or most people living more than a few hours from a major city centre.

On the other hand, there are lots of great parenting tips, and advice that does apply.

Among them: potty training, starting solids, discipline, play time, cutting baby’s fingernails and that most important milestone: transitioning from crib to toddler bed.

I’m a reader and a researcher. That means I research the hell out of any new thing coming my way.

So, like potty training, starting solids, discipline, play time and cutting Sylvia’s fingernails, I read up on the crib-to-bed thing. I read a lot. I read every single headline about toddler sleep habits I’ve seen in the past six months. I’ve actively sought out articles on how to make the switch as easy as possible.

Then the time came for Sylvia to make the switch… and it was a complete non-issue. Seamless. Easy.

I know. I KNOW. She’s two now and could completely change her tune in a week. But let me bask in this easy glory for a few days at least, okay?

Soooo, I’m taking a page out of Laurie’s book who is in turn taking her cue from Momalom this week… Five for Five is a week-long blogging event whereby bloggers write every day on each of five topics.

Today: CHANGE.

Tomorrow: WORDS.

Stay tuned.

Something must be done.

We’re home! In our very own tiny house.

My first impression upon walking in was, we have so much stuff!

Living out of a suitcase for four months certainly reduces your necessary belongings to the bare minimum.

We packed for a 3-month stay in Alberta. I tried to emulate Rachel of Small Notebook and her 3-month packing list, and while I think I brought a little less than her for the regular wardrobe, My ski gear more than made up the rest.

So one look in my NL closet was like marching into the WEM! Or at least that’s how it felt. I immediately grabbed about four dozen items and put them directly in bags to donate.

The same goes in the bathroom. We have so many hair accessories and spare towels and bath toys. In the front porch there are no fewer than 17 coats and jackets – with an additional eight in the spare closet upstairs.

Let me be perfectly clear: our house is less than 1,000 square feet! What the hell are we doing with all this stuff?

I’ve been trying to consistently cut back on our belongings for over a year. I made a pretty good dent before Christmas (or so I thought) but clearly that wasn’t enough.

Twenty-five coats and jackets! There are only two of us! Yeesh. From where I’m sitting I can count an additional eight belonging to Sylvia. The outerwear alone is out of hand.

Next to go will be a considerable number of stuffed animals, footwear and half our dinner plates (see: small house, tiny kitchen; frequency of hosting large dinner parties = never).

Hey, it’s two degrees outside. Staying home and simplifying sounds like a perfect grey Monday activity.