Saturday, 10 March 2018

They Grow Up So Fast

Well, today was a big day in our household. My little Gertie had her first birthday, and she spent it doing some of her most favourite things - napping, eating snow and chasing ducks!

She was not a willing participant of the birthday crown. This was the closest I was able to get... It’s about a foot away. 

It’s hard to believe she’s reached a year already, as it only seems like a few months ago that I brought her home. Of course, that was only 10 months ago, but still - she’s been through so much over her first year. She’s become a world traveller, camping aficionado, snow cone maker, and a long list of other achievements...and not so achievements, such as failing obedience, and eating many of my favourite clothes and blankets. But, she’s cute.

Yesterday, she appeared to be a little apprehensive about turning the big ‘1’. When I awoke, she was laying on the bed staring off, with her little chin on her paws. I assured her it wouldn’t be so bad, and we went on with our day.

My pensive pre-1 pup. 

Today started off with a bang! Literally... as an upstairs neighbour was engaging in some... adult behaviour. This was when I first noticed her new level of maturity, as she didn’t take to the middle of the living room, point her head in the direction of the ceiling and begin barking until they stopped. Instead, she just grumbled and went back to sleep.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl! 
Throughout the day, Gertie and I went on several walks. It was so nice to have a warm, sunny day to share with her. Of course, the recent snowfalls foiled our plans a bit, since we were supposed to go for a bigger hike in a nearby park. Oh well - there will be plenty of time for that once the summer hits!

For a girl who hates the rain/getting wet, she sure makes up for it when it snows! 
She even fakes needing to pee, so she can go out and enjoy it!

Little Gerts was also treated to a few carrots. I don’t know how I managed to get a vegan dog, but I love how easy it is to get my kid to eat her vegetables. Also - it’s a great teething trick for anyone in that stage of puppyhood!

She even had her first “adult beverage” - a Piña Chewlatta! I think she liked it!

Thanks to BarkBox for the bevy! And, don’t worry folks - that’s not a plastic straw!

Not a bad start to a new year! I can’t wait to see what adventures she’ll take on over the next 12 months.

-the Orange Canadian

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A Musical Tweak Down Memory Lane

I had the opportunity to treat my grandmother to an afternoon of classical music put on my Symphony Nova Scotia. Of course, I was a little more invested in this outing, as the lineup included Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which happens to be one of, if not, my favourite classical pieces.

One of the things I love most about this type of music is that it can interpreted differently depending on your mood, the atmosphere, and even who is playing it. It’s amazing how you can listen to the same piece over and over again, and yet, be struck by any number of emotions each time. There are some pieces that fill me with such joy, and then the next time I hear it I am saddened. Music is quite possibly one of the most beautiful gifts we have, as it seems to be able to transcend borders, culture, and language. It also proves how something can apply from one generation to the next, or even with several in between. That my grandmother and I could enjoy the same set, is something truly heartwarming, as I’m not sure our other tastes in music would translate well, like Vivaldi does.

I’ve been pretty blessed to have an appreciation for classical music, in particular. I am a part of a family that has an accomplished pianist in its midst. My aunt has helped to expand my collection of classical music, as she has introduced me to new pieces and composers over the years. I was also fortunate to have a music teacher in elementary school who’s passion for the classics was extremely influential, and was often used as a means of encouraging the use of our imaginations as we engaged with various compositions.

Since I haven’t been writing as much lately, and this theme has really been playing on my mind, I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. Here we go:

Vivaldi - Four Seasons
This piece is truly beautiful - you can actually feel the change from one season to the next and be swept away by all of the twists and turns. Winter is my favourite of the four, but they all have something unique and magical about them. Spring, I would guess, is the most widely recognized, as it is frequently used in films and large-scale wedding productions. But selecting a favourite can be tricky, since, as I said above, depending on my mood or where I am, physically, how I perceive it can pull me towards one over the others.

Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre
Saint-Saëns is best known for his Carnival of the Animals works, which features selections such as Aquarium and The Swan. Danse Macabre, meaning dance of the Dead is another wonderful piece that plays with your imagination. This piece in particular brings me back to my younger years in music class with Miss. MacMullin. She used to get us to act out the song; sometimes with prompts, while other times letting our imaginations run wild. Listen for the wind, the rushing as dawn approaches, and all of the other wonders of this piece.

Frédéric Chopin - Prélude (“Raindrop”)
Thanks to my aunt, Heather, I have developed a deep admiration for the work of Chopin. It’s hard to choose one piece to share, so I’m actually going to share two. The first, Prélude is a beautiful piece that allows you to imagine an oncoming storm, which builds all the way to it’s passing. This is my favourite piece to hear Heather play. I am always brought back to Acadia University’s Garden Room, where she usually holds her recitals. But as a fan of rain, it also plays into my love for a good storm - particularly on a warm summer day.

Frédéric Chopin - Nocturne
This is the second piece of Chopin’s that I truly enjoy. I chose to include this one because one of my favourite modern day composers, Ólafur Arnalds released a compilation of Chopin’s work, and that makes me super happy! Since many young people seem to be into his own work, the idea that he might be introducing them to Chopin’s is exciting, and gives me hope that they might actually branch out to explore other composers.

Pachelbel - Canon in D Major
Another well-known wedding piece. However, I was introduced to it via ‘90s hip hop artist Coolio who used it in his song “I’ll C U When U Get There”. It doesn’t have quite the same feel as the original composition, but it got me to explore Pachelbel’s work, so I guess everybody wins... except Coolio, because he’s sort of irrelevant now. Anyway, this is another beautiful piece that I can easily get lost in.

Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata
Choosing a Beethoven piece is probably one of the most difficult tasks to self-inflict. I chose this piece because of the recent take by E.S. Posthumus, who are a duo that do a lot of soundtrack work. They are more of a classical-electronica group, and I loved what they did with this piece. They kept to it’s origins, but gave it a more modern twist.

The Cinematic Orchestra - Arrival of the Birds & Transformation
Okay, I’ll be honest, I had no idea who wrote this piece until moments ago. This is also the concluding piece for this post. This first came to me in the form of an 8Tracks playlist while studying for finals in my first year at Acadia. It has always captured my attention and soon it was put on regular rotation in my personal playlists. It has also been a piece that has taken me a long time to listen to again, as it brings up a lot of emotional turmoil, but it is beautiful all the same. This was the last song I played in the car with my Mom before she dropped me off the last time. I think of it now as our song, which is silly because there is a far longer list of tunes we have listened to over the years that would be more appropriate! But, alas, this is my last living memory of her. And, I don’t know if I’ve ever admitted that to myself, let alone anyone else.

I hope a few of these become ear worms for you, as they have for me. There are so many others that I could have included, but this post would continue on forever. I would highly recommend Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. I’ve never been a huge Disney fan, but the soundtracks to these are phenomenal. Feel free to use the comments section below to tell me what your favourite pieces are and any memories associated with them!

-the Orange Canadian

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Mayflower Land

Today in class, while discussing the heavy topic of ‘ecocide’, the term solastalgia came up. This is the term used to describe the feeling of loss or sadness related to environmental change.

After going through examples from my students, I shared my own example - Mayflower Land. 

Image source:
For anyone not from Nova Scotia, the mayflower is our provincial flower. It is a small pinkish-white flower, which tends to be in full bloom during the month of May. For many of us, it was the first signs of spring. It has a light but floral sent, and makes a lovey centrepiece in any small vase.

But as far as Mayflower Land goes... that’s something different!

When I was a kid, I grew up in a few smaller neighbourhoods, where kids would gather after school or on sunny days throughout the summer. I am so lucky and thankful to have had these experiences, and the memories of playing street hockey as the youngest member in goalie, or playing endless games of tag, or acting out Power Rangers scenes in snowbanks are some of the highlights of those early years. Some days I wish I could go back.

There was one particular place, however, that we would always come across. A place we would lovingly refer to as Mayflower Land. A hill covered with these tiny, yet beautiful flowers - they seemed endless. If I close my eyes and really think about it, I can still see it; I can even smell them. And it was magical - almost like a real life Narnia - having to pass through a wooded area in order to reach this hidden gem. I sometimes wish I could return, if for no other reason than to see if it is actually how I remember it.

Unfortunately some years ago this mystical place was transformed into an extension of that subdivision. While I’m happy those families have a safe place to rest their heads, I often wonder if they ever knew what their land once was.

Thinking about Mayflower Land frequently makes me smile. But I still get a pain of sadness whenever I remember that it is no longer there.

-the Orange Canadian

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Free Fallin'

It wasn’t Jerry Maguire that got me hooked onto this tune, but it sure has been relevant as of late. And it seems that Tom Petty has been taking over the airwaves this past week, and I’m also okay with that.  But, it’s a different type of free fallin’ I’m talking about these days...

Male relatives, colleagues, and any creepy guys I don’t know, this is your warning to choose a different page.

One of the hardest parts of winter is how much work it takes just to get out the door. Add in a puppy who requires occasional, and dare I say, additional, visits to the cold out-of-doors, and this struggle becomes real pretty quickly!

When I wake up in the morning, I like to slowly ease my way into it... starting with a quiet cup of coffee and a few minutes to just be with my thoughts. But, I realize that one of my responsibilities as a dog owner, is that I must take her out to pee, and of course for a walk. And 9 times out of 10, I’m cool to do that while I wait for the water to boil. But there’s just one part of getting ready for those early morning releases that I just can’t stand. The dreaded bra.

Look, I’m in my cozy p-jams. I don’t want the cold air to change that just because I have to go outside. So, this past week I did something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing... I’ve been taking Gertie for a walk braless. And it’s...been...awesome!

I know you smaller chested ladies are fortunate enough to be able to do this on a whim without the fear of public outcry, but that’s not a blessing I’ve been given. Taking to the streets, with only a few layers and my free flowing ladies is slightly nerve-racking, and yet it’s been freeing all the same. In a small and weird way, it’s been kind of empowering. I know it’s small potatoes, but really - why am I going through all the work to put on a bra just to take my dog for a quick tinkle stroll? It’s bad enough we have to countdown the hours until we are home from work so we can take it off!

- the Orange Canadian

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Onwards and Upwards

2018 is quickly nearing, and I have to say this year can't end soon enough. When I look back on the past 12 months there are surely things to be celebrated and for which I am proud of, or that I’m thankful for. My time in The Netherlands, once again, adopting Gertie, and registering my organization in Uganda are all among the top highlights. However, these were marred by a plethora of not so good moments, for which I am hoping will not be repeated in the coming year ahead.

To say this year has been a struggle is surely be an understatement. Dealing with my mental health has been on of my greatest challenges as of late. They began in May, and have continued on even as I write. Depression and anxiety have been apart of my life since I was a child, and they have come and gone throughout the years. Usually they can easily be managed but this time around it has become increasingly more difficult. My low points have been places I have not felt in years - not even after losing my Mom almost 5 years ago. It’s painful and lonely, and can be quite scary at times, as a result. This isn’t a state I have spoken about a lot, mostly because I still believe my doing so overburdens those around me, and partly because I seem to think I can get through it all without the help of others. Gertie has been a tremendous help in this area, but she is only one pup - and the burden is not solely hers to cure or carry. Plus, she has some issues of her own. You could say we’re both a work in progress, but I’m glad we’re figuring it all out together. She’s such a good companion.

But a huge part of my challenges this year have stemmed from support - or lack there of - and readjusting to a place I don’t really feel I relate to anymore*. It’s funny how only a few years away can make a place you’ve always known feel so distant. The landscapes alone have changed, especially when looking at the Halifax skyline, but so have the people, the norms, and pretty much everything else. I don’t think I ever fully grasped Ugandan culture, but I do feel like it was becoming a part of my core. And this has been felt more so since returning to Canada (and not just because it’s now cold!). It didn’t help that it wasn’t a welcomed decision to leave in the first place, but rather one made out of necessity. I was in a bad place, and I thought I would have more support when I returned. But in all honesty I have felt replaced more than I have felt supported. It’s forced me to open up old wounds and really focus on just how much of an impact my mother’s passing has had on my life and how unfair it is that certain circumstances have been greeted with unequal results. The not knowing where I’d be resting my head from one day to the next, and the lack of having a steady routine were some of the things I hadn't anticipated, and the consequences are still something I am struggling to understand. All of this, mixed with some crummy relationships that need to be cut loose, have been a recipe for disaster.

The sad thing is that throughout it all, my physical health has also been in decline. Thank goodness for Gertie who gets me out at least twice a day for walks, and some indoor playtime fun! I know I have let down my workout buddies immensely; in the last few weeks, in particular. They are such a reliable source of positive energy and encouragement. But, there have been far too many days where it has been hard to muster up the strength or motivation to exercise and eat right, when the prospect of the future seems such a long shot. I know I need to get on board again - and I will step up.

But let’s not focus solely on the bad. The coming year has some pretty incredible opportunities in the works - starting in a little over a week, I head to the front of the classroom, as a lecturer at Acadia University. This is an opportunity I had been working towards since I left the school as a graduate only a few short years ago**. I have some travel plans, including heading to Japan for a little work-play adventure, and then heading back to the continent I love - beginning in Kenya, and then eventually making my way next door to Uganda. I also have some writing contracts lined up, and if all goes as planned, I may very well find myself in a classroom once again - this time as a student.

There is a lot of good. I know this. You, as a reader, hopefully know this about your own lives. There will always be negative moments, and unforeseeable changes, no matter what. I have come to recognize this simply as life. But these tend to be the things that further strengthen one’s capability to thrive. These are the moments we will look back on - hopefully with minimal resentment - and recognize as those pivotal moments that could have, but didn’t break us. And that, my friends, is what I’ll be holding onto in 2018.

- the Orange Canadian

*More on this latter topic potentially in the next few days.
**And if I’m really being honest, well before then!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

December 6th: Marking 100 Years

It was a day much different from this one. For starters, it’s 10°C, and a hundred years ago, a snowstorm was on its way. But the rainy, solemn morning in Halifax today seems equally appropriate.

Marking its 100th anniversary, the Halifax Explosion is Canada’s largest maritime disaster and one of the most significant events in the country’s war history. Sadly, the events of this day are often omitted from curriculum* in other parts of the country, despite the impact it had from coast to coast.

An estimated 2000 people were killed, countless others were injured, houses and businesses were destroyed, and life in this city changed in a flash. The cause? A munitions ship (the SS Mont Blanc) collided with the SS Imo, causing a blast that could be felt miles away. And if this wasn’t bad enough, a snowstorm hit that same evening, placing even more stresses to an already challenging situation. There are loads of sites, books, and other platforms to learn more about this event in detail, so I’ll leave this to you to investigate further. There’s even a few good tunes to be found!

Today I had fully intended to head over to Fort Needham Memorial Park to participate in the official memorial. But I just couldn’t get organized enough to do so. Instead, I prepped Gertie for her daily morning walk, and we made our way down to the Dartmouth waterfront - the next best place, I figured.

As we reached the edge of the boardwalk, the cannon sounded from atop Citadel Hill, and our minute of silence began. The ships in the harbour blew their horns, which presented an even more eerie mood to the day. It felt heavy. And it was all sort of overwhelming.

I thought of my paternal grandfather and how if he had been in a different place that morning I probably wouldn’t be here. I thought of my grandmother’s friend and infamous survivor, Barbara Orr, and of all the wonderful tales Grammy has told me about her over the years**. I thought of the kindness of those who came from near and far to lend a helping hand, and how recent disasters have typically been shown the same sense of humanity.

And as I move forward with the day, I will continue to reflect on how lucky I am and try to focus on the good that people can do. I will also take a few minutes to think about another horrific event that took place on this day and which marks the 28th anniversary of the events at École Polytechnique. This day is now recognized as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

It’s a big day for Canadian history. It’s a sad day. But it’s also a day to consider and envision a way forward, towards a more peaceful world, while embracing the gravity of both of these events.

-the Orange Canadian

*Not that we need to know every historical detail of our country, but one of this magnitude should certainly be mentioned at the very least!
**I even have some of her artwork still - pieces that my mother cherished.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Lessons learned from life with a puppy

It’s hard to believe, but somehow 6 months has already passed with Gertie. Yes, half a year ago, I brought home the sweetest little pup, and my entire life changed almost instantly. And while she’s still pretty sweet, she’s certainly not that little nugget anymore. She still remains hyper, loving, curious, WAY too amused by the male species, and a super snuggler. She’s also still quite timid at times, racked full of anxiety, and won’t let anything stand in the way of her and any source of food.

Gertie, at 9 weeks old. The first day home. 
Gertie at 6 and 8 months old, respectively. 

When I brought her home from Uganda, she weighed about 9.5kg. When we were last at the vet, she had doubled*. She has taken on an even happier personality since we arrived, and agrees that bacon is one of the better reasons to wake up in the morning (when I’m willing to share).

But aside from all of this, she has taught me so much about myself, life, and the true meaning of love. Here are just a few insights:

There is nothing better than coming home to a puppy after a long day of work

Since Gertie came into my life, I have a new understanding of time. That is, for a puppy, being gone for five minutes is the equivalent of being gone for 5 hours. Whether I run out to the car quickly, close the door while having a pee, or leave for a full day of work, the reaction when I return is the same - sheer joy, and whimpers that I can only assume translate to Mama, why did you leave me for so long?

The greeting I receive when I come home is sometimes the best part of my day. It’s also when I get a nice facial cleanse, but that’s neither here, nor there. No human I have ever encountered has ever been that excited to see me on a consistent basis like she is... except for maybe the little guy who’s family I stayed with Uganda...but I’m pretty sure he just wanted candy!

Bodily functions/fluids aren’t so gross

I have been on the record enough times for most people to know I’m not so big on the idea of children. I mean, I know they exist and are a requirement to continue the human populous, but to have one myself... PASS!

When Gertie entered my life, my maternal instincts surfaced immediately. From the first night fearing the massive responsibility I just took on (and staying up with her because she was crying and wouldn’t use the bathroom and being completely terrified I would somehow kill her) to moments where she’s been under the weather - my number one concern was for her health, happiness and safety.

A week or so ago I came home from work to find a mess that had stemmed from both ends leaking out of her crate, which then proceeded to cover my floor after letting her out. Usually this stuff would cause me to gag or throw up myself, but in this instance, all I wanted was to comfort her and make sure she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. Thankfully, her follow up indicated she was all good, but it was terrifying not knowing what was wrong.

It does, however, still freak me out, how willing she is to clean any sidewalk of poop...especially now that it’s usually found in solid, frozen form! That’s my girl!!

Karma’s a bitch

I’m a redhead (hence my ‘Orange’ status). This meant that as a child and well into my teen years I exuded that stereotypical fiery red temper. I was a snot more simply, and there are many occasions that I look back on that I think, why didn’t my mother just drop me somewhere and never look back?

Gertie has taken on some of these same qualities. I mean, she is an Orange Ugandan, after all! But I frequently catch her rolling her eyes at me, having some temper tantrums, etc.

To the latter, I now know why my Mom didn’t just drop me somewhere. Gertie has developed a number of aggression problems, mainly around food, but also my bed, and a few of her toys. We’re working on it... but it’s hard. I constantly feel like I’ve failed her, or that I can’t take it any more. And just as those thoughts enter into my mind, she usually stops and gives me the sweetest look or does something really funny that I know I shouldn’t laugh at, because she’ll think I’m encouraging it, and all those negative thoughts dissipate (which goes back to the first point!).

There are people who should be in your life, and others that shouldn’t 

The best piece of advice this little four-legged beauty has offered me is that of my value and self-worth. She has taught me so much about unconditional love and the type of relationships I should have in my life. And, I’m not just talking about romantic ones, although she has been an incredible lesson in that department, as well.

Part of my leaving Uganda has been the result of some not-so-good friendships. Ones that demanded more of me than I was willing, or should have been asked, to give. A few of these became quite dangerous**. However, I’ve noticed that some of the relationships I thought I had awaiting me when I returned to Canada were of a similar, unhealthy nature, which has made coming back far more challenging than I needed or thought. But with the help of Gertie, I’m weeding out the people in my life that don’t allow me to live a positive, healthy life. So, people who only focus on my weight, my career, the fact that I brought a dog home from the opposite side of the planet, etc., don’t get the attention they used to, because I am more than a number, a confused workaholic, or a crazy dog person, etc.

But relationships of the romantic variety are also starting to change. I’ve never really felt the need to be in a relationship, and in fact, I actually quite prefer the single status! I’ve learned over the years that I’m way too independent and goal-oriented to put another person ahead of any of that, and luckily Gertie falls into those objectives more than she inhibits them! Yet, guys I’ve been involved with in the past haven’t been the greatest, either***, and Gertie is slowly teaching me the power of standing up for myself, and not just continuing something for the sake of routine. She’s teaching me that I need, and should only give time to, a sir that challenges my ideas about the world and supports my career goals. She’s teaching me that reliability, honesty, and hard work is a two-way street and not one that I am solely responsible for (which has been difficult!). She’s teaching me to stop making excuses for such behaviours, as well, because I want to see the best in people, or I want to believe that the glimmer of hope I saw on that one occasion a long, long time ago is worth putting up with all the other foolishness for in the hopes that that glimmer will once again shine again. (Insider tip: it usually doesn’t!)

So there you have it - a few of the many, many lessons that this little beauty has taught me in the short time we’ve been together. I know there is much more to learn from her, and many more adventures to come!

- Gertie’s Ma

*I sure hope she soon stops growing, because my flat isn’t big enough for Clifford!
**although to be fair, I have left some pretty amazing friends behind also, and I look forward to seeing them someday soon!
***I’m not saying all of my selections were poor, just that most have been