Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sugar – The Sweetest Dog in Town (current draft)

I am completely unsure of this story now. I like the plot and the idea but I'm not sure it's the right thing for this competition, again I feel like the restrictions on length are stifling me. I've got two months left and ideas flying around my head for stories that are based around kind of a moment in a child's life and focusing on the imagination of a child aspect...hard to explain, which I guess is why I'm having trouble beginning to write them...ugghhh, choosing a path and going with it, the story of my life!

Anyways, here's the story as it stands today....and of course a dog pic to accompany it:

When Sugar caught a glimpse of herself in one of the mirrors of her house or in the window where she sat to watch for her humans returning home from wherever it is they went without her, she was always surprised at what she saw, so surprised that sometimes she “woofed” loudly thinking that the beautiful white dog in the reflection must be a stranger on her property. But no, that pretty dog in the glass was always just her, Sugar-dog all silky white fur and soft, floppy ears and smiley face. Sugar knew herself to be a beautiful animal and that’s why she was always confused when stranger humans and stranger dogs were afraid of her. Sugar was the breed of dog humans call a “Pit Bull”. This name strikes fear in the heart of humans everywhere and dogs that Sugar met along her travels were not too fond of it either. At first Sugar thought it was fun that humans and dogs saw her and believed she was tough. Dogs in the dog park went out of their way to avoid Sugar, she never was picked on the way some other dogs were. After a while though, Sugar started to find this lonely and sad, humans wouldn’t pet her, they kept their little human pups, the ones called children, far away from her. Sometimes when they saw Sugar out walking they would get upset and use their loud voices to express their fear. Even Sugar’s own humans, who knew her sweetness and that she would never hurt anyone, had started to respond to the fears of the strangers. They kept Sugar on her leash and inside the house, they never let her wander too far and they kept her away from the human pups, even though they knew that Sugar loved the pups best. She loved to play with them and hug them and kiss them. All of this made Sugar very sad, she didn’t understand why all the humans and even the other dogs would be so afraid of her just because of a label. She didn’t think it was very fair. So, Sugar decided to do something about it. She was going to prove to everyone what a good dog she really was. Sugar was a very obedient dog most of the time. She didn’t enjoy having to disobey her humans in order to prove to everyone else that she was a good dog. But, Sugar was so tired of everyone being afraid of her that she was willing to risk consequences. So, Sugar came up with a plan. She would sneak away from home just long enough to meet some neighbours and change their opinion of her. Sneaking was not very difficult for Sugar to do; the difficulty was trying not to feel guilty about it. Sugar simply walked out of the gate in her yard one afternoon when she heard the sound of a human pup crying. She followed the sound a few houses down until she saw the child lying on the sidewalk with his bicycle lying alongside. The boy was crying so hard that he didn’t even notice Sugar until she was right next to him. Sugar very gently nudged the boy with her nose and he looked up into her brown eyes. He was so scared from his fall off the bike that he forgot to be afraid. Sugar sniffed the boy all over. She was a very sensitive, smart dog and could tell if someone was hurt just by smelling them. Her nose told her that the bone in the boy’s arm was very hurt. Sugar knew where he lived and thought she could help by getting the boy’s mother and bringing her to him. So Sugar licked the tears from the boy’s face, making him giggle a little through his pain and then ran as fast as she could to his house. Sugar couldn’t knock like a human and she couldn’t reach the doorbell so she used her paws to scratch at the front door until the lady opened it. ”What are you doing here? Where is your leash? Where are your owners? You’re not supposed to be wandering around here alone! You’re dangerous!” Sugar wasn’t sure if she was going to keep yelling or just shut the door in her face so she gently tugged on the woman’s pants with her mouth, being careful not to use her teeth. Still the woman was sure that Sugar was trying to bite her and so she screamed. Sugar knew that if she could just get the woman to follow her she would find her son and understand. So, Sugar decided that she had to break a big rule, she would go inside the house without an invitation and, even worse, she would take something from the house and carry it outside so that the lady would follow her. With her sensitive nose, and her love of food, Sugar had smelled something yummy inside since before the door even opened. She dashed passed the woman, following her sniffer into the kitchen where a tasty looking sandwich sat on the table, probably waiting for the hurt boy. This was not easy, Sugar thought back to when she was a puppy and stole food from the table. The trouble she got in! Then she remembered the little boy lying on the road and she did it, she put her front paws up on the tabletop and grabbed the pb&j sandwich from the plate. She ran back out the front door with the sandwich in her mouth. The boy’s mother stood for a second, totally shocked. Sugar was afraid that she wouldn’t follow her. What would Sugar do then? But just then the lady called out “Hey! Bad dog, what do you think you’re doing?” And Sugar was relieved as she headed down the lawn, making sure the lady was following her. Sugar stopped and turned towards the woman, she gently laid the sandwich on the ground and sat down next to it thumping her whip-like tail in a show of good faith. She turned her big brown up eyes up to the woman. They were filled with the hope that the woman would hear her son in the sudden silence when the woman stopped yelling. As they stood at the bottom of the yard, a cry could be clearly heard. Sugar could see that the woman heard the cry and knew it was her son. Now Sugar saw a different kind of fear in her eyes, fear for her son. She tugged the pant leg again and ”woofed” softly. When she got the woman’s attention she started down the street, stopping a few feet down and barking again. The woman came to life and moved towards Sugar slowly, she was confused about the idea of following this mean dog to her crying son. When the woman reached Sugar’s side Sugar reached up and licked her hand softly. This time the woman did look into the brown eyes and saw that she could trust Sugar. Together they ran down the street to her son. “Sammy! What happened? How long have you been lying here?” Sammy tried to reach out to his mother but the pain in his arm stopped him. “Ouch Mommy! I think something’s wrong with my arm.” “Honey, do you think you’ll be okay here while Mommy goes to get the car to take you to the doctor?” Sammy looked very frightened until Sugar stepped up, licked his tear-stained face and sat right next to him. She looked up at Sammy’s mom and thumped her tail. Sammy said, “I think I’ll be okay with Sugar here.” Sammy’s mom looked into Sugar’s soft eyes and knew it would be fine. She ran home to get the car. Sammy reached for Sugar with his good arm and together they sat and waited. When Sammy’s mother returned Sugar waited until Sammy was safely in the car. The lady kneeled down and gave Sugar a hug before Sugar ran home. Sugar was in BIG trouble when she got back home. Her humans had been looking for her all over and gave Sugar a lecture. Sugar felt guilty and walked into the house with her tail between her legs and her head hung low but still the happy warm feelings of having done a good deed was stronger than anything else. She wished she had words to tell them what she had been doing. Later that evening Sammy and his mother arrived at Sugar’s house. They had a basket of treats and toys for Sugar. Sugar’s parents opened the door and looked confused, “Hi Linda, how are you? What’s all this?” Then Sammy stepped out from behind his mother and Sugar’s owner exclaimed “Sammy! What happened to you?” Sugar sat listening. When Sammy’s mother explained what had happened Sugar came out into the doorway. She was so happy to see that Sammy was okay that it was very hard not to jump all over him but she stopped herself and waited for Sammy to bend down and hug her. Sugar’s humans were first confused and then pleased to hear about Sugar’s activities. Sammy and his mother called Sugar a hero. It made Sugar feel embarrassed but also very happy. After that day a lot of things changed for Sugar and her humans. The neighbours came to see her often and they brought their children to play. Sugar was invited for play dates with neighbourhood dogs. Sugar and her humans were very proud of how Sugar had managed to change the way people and animals thought of her and the word “pit bull”.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shot at Stardom

Here's a test for you, can you spot me in the above pic? No? I'll give you a hint...
That's me all costumed and wigged out. Last summer I was an extra in a documentary called "Death or Canada" about the Irish potato famine and the subsequent mass emigration to Canada. Today I got word that it's coming to air on the History Channel on March 16th at 8.

I figure there's a pretty good chance I'll be in at least a few shots. If nothing else it should make for a fun round of "Where's Waldo"....hmm, perhaps a drinking game, shots for every time I'm in a shot?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Story of Me Part 2

So I had a dream last night, I'm not normally one for analyzing my nightly visions, got enough crazy goin' on up in here, but every once in a while one comes along and sticks in my mind vividly come morning, I feel like this kind of subconscious persistence deserves a conscious look. This dream definitely seemed to me to carry an insight within.

In the dream I was looking out the window of my house onto a field of grass surrounded by a border of trees. This field was empty and lonely. It had no visitors, no one in the neighbourhood ever stepped foot on it or found a purpose for it.
One day someone came along and laid out a path of stepping stones cut of tree stumps around the perimeter of the field, inside the border of trees. Suddenly the field became a neighbourhood attraction, families came out to walk the path of stepping stones and the field was always busy with groups and couples and individuals strolling along. None of these folks strayed from the designated path and as I watched from my window I was intrigued to find that they all walked in the same direction around and around and around. I myself never went out to the field, I was content to watch from behind the safety of my window.

A few things strike me about this dream, firstly that I found myself watching from within my house, behind the border and protection of the glass. My therapist would be pleased to hear me note that the house is often symbolic of a person's inner life, and so in the dream I find myself watching life go by from within my own mind. Secondly the path itself is interesting. It felt to me like the field was overwhelming to the neighbourhood before it was given a prescribed purpose by the precision laying of the stepping stone path. Only then could people find a use for it and they strictly followed the path laid out for them. I see myself watching this, watching the people around me go by on their prescribed paths, lifepaths that have been laid out for them, while I have to make my own.

So I come back to "The Story of Me", my brother was here this past weekend and we recalled a conversation that I at first insisted must have happened when he was about 16 and I was about 20, upon further consideration though it is more likely that this exchange happened when he was at the tender age of 12, which makes it all the more telling. I remember clearly that we were upstairs in the family home, both of us getting ready to go out somewhere when the youngster turned to me and said, "You know you're probably never going to make any money so I think we should make a deal now that when the parents get old I'll take care of everything financially and you'll actually look after them." That's right, at the age of 12 my brother was preparing himself for the odd, round-a-bout life his big sister was bound to lead. My twenties are really a blur to me, I knew I wasn't happy with the prescribed path, I managed to finish high school a semester early and put university off for a year. But at that point I still wasn't brave enough to find my own way and so I enrolled in a local university and took courses I thought were interesting, but I gotta tell ya, I had no thought for future or career or anything with meaning. University itself was a twisty-turny road, I got sick and had to take yet another year off, I transferred out of province to finish up, I drank and drugged my way to graduation and somewhere along the way I met the love of my life who managed to stick with me through it all.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Story of Me (Part One)

I’ve been thinking about how I got to where I am today. I think it’s an important topic for this blog because so much of what my life is right now it still an adjustment, I am mid evolution from where I was for a long time sure I was headed to the bend in the road that has led me to where I am now and the new vision of life still developing in front of me. It occurs to me that I have done a whole lot of stuff in my life completely ass-backwards. In fact, it often occurs to me that this might be the only way I know how to function. This is why at age 27 I had a nervous breakdown and now at age 30 I’m still putting the pieces back together, figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and how I got to where I am today.

I grew up in a suburb. When my parents moved to the suburb with me, their first child, it was a small, burgeoning town, growing out of its rural roots. It was close enough to the giant metropolitan hub of Toronto but still small and somehow separate from the big city-ness found there. By virtue of this it had become an attractive destination for young families. My primary school experience was a cozy and secure one. Most of my classmates and I began kindergarten together and for the most part graduated to high school together in grade eight. I never had much in common with most of my classmates, but we had all been close, we had grown up together and were loyal to one another. I just assumed that feeling isolated was a natural state of being. I didn’t know there was more out there. I don’t remember a lot from my childhood. Yes it’s weird and yes it’s something I’m examining currently. I've been trying to get myself to write down burgeoning, still fuzzy, and still without much context, memories but I'm having a difficult time getting my fingers to wrap themselves around a pen or enticing my hands to poise themselves above the keyboard to begin.

When I started high school there was a farm bordering the football field. But the suburb was continuing to grow, the farm was torn down to make room for yet more identical houses and our high school population was in the thousands. I did not stay close to my safety-net of grade school classmates for long once I realized how many people there were for me to meet in the new world of high school. The point is, I had a pretty sheltered childhood. This was mostly my own doing, I lived very much in my head, in books, in imagination. I didn’t have much interest in socializing and I enjoyed being alone. I know that this was by my own desire because I watched my younger brother grow up just as social as I was anti, as outgoing as I was fearful of interaction. My parents were so very good at allowing both my brother and I to be our own people, whatever that might mean. I hope that I am strong and brave enough to parent my own children in this way, that I won't be able to is one of the greatest fears of parenthood for me.

As adolescence is so apt to do, it awakened my need to take part in the world around me and I found this world to be much larger than the sleepy suburb I had moved into as a young child. My suburb had become a city unto itself and there was lots to explore. It was the mid 90s, a great time to be a brooding, creative teenager, grunge culture was at its height and Eddie Vedder eloquently read my mind and my soul in his every wrenching lyric.

To be cont’d

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Turning my Back on Store Bought Spiciness

Well, I made my tandoori/butter chicken again, this time with a homemade garam masala spice mix and it was a million times better! I love to have control of my ingredients and the interpretation of the recipe and making my own spices allowed that. I'll never go back to store bought!

Give it a try, it's well worth the effort!

Garam Masala

4 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
3/4 tsp. cardamom
3/4 tsp. cloves
2 (1 inch) cinnamon sticks
3/4 tsp. crushed bay leaves
1 tsp. nutmeg (this is my addition...just 'cause I like cinnamon)

Toast all the spices slowly except the ginger in a skillet, stirring often, until they turn a few shades darker. Do not try to toast them too quickly or you will burn their outsides!
Cool the spices, add the ginger to the mix and grind the spices together.
Most with with this mixture. I know I've got it right when it just smells like yummy goodness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Daily Moment of Beauty

I looked up directly after my last post and was confronted with this vision. I had to share.

Mid Winter Melt

After a brief hiatus from the beach for the recovery of my poor ass, the dogs and I returned to the shore today. Much of the snow has melted, at least enough to walk safely and not end up mired in knee deep drifts.

So how do you know you're in the middle of a mid-winter melt? Well sure, you can check your nearest thermometer, check out a weather report or...if you're like me, you could do as you do with most things and rely on your dog. When your husky-border collie feels that it's warm enough to deserve a mid-walk plunge and wallow in the just barely melting shore waters of Georgian Bay.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Through a Lens and through the snow

No words I can string together can compete with these images from my beach (in the winter I get to call it that 'cause me and the dogs are the only ones crazy enough to go down there.)

This was our last beachy stroll for a little while though. It's pretty treacherous terrain at the moment. We've had a bit of mild weather and the ice hiding under the snow is thin and brittle and very, very slippy. The snow itself is knee deep one step and the next only a skim over the frozen sand. Yesterday I was falling through at times (several times) and slipping and sliding all over. Even the dogs were finding it tough.

Normally I enjoy the workout of trekking through the snowy depths, but this was a bit much even for me. And then last night I was reminded of my advancing age. I tell you, everything starts falling apart at 30! Right, so last night I suddenly got a my ass!!!! What is that about? It was the most intense and sudden pain...well, you know, just like in your leg, but in the butt and shooting down the leg! I collapsed on the couch next to my father and when I told him (with his chronic back pain) what was happening he just looked at me and said, "Mmhm, happens to me all the time. Probably your sciatic." What?!?!?!? Seriously?! Healthy walks in the wonders of nature and comic falls in the snow are now going to lead to back problems and health risks...and butt pain?

The upshot? No more scary, butt pain inducing beach walks for me for a few days. My gluteus (and leg) is in recovery mode. Seriously, it hurts...still (whines). I'm frightened, so very frightened.