Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dragon Boat Festival

Last summer when I moved to town, there was a dragonboat booth at one of the local summer festivals.  I've always thought dragonboating would be COOLER THAN SHIT, plus it's nice to join a team to meet people and get exercise.  So I signed up.

Our season started the end of March.  Somehow (thanks to my coworker and teammate Amy), I wound up on the most competitive team in a 100 mile radius, so at my first practice I was like Please be kind, I'm as green as bananas...

The coach sat behind me and gave me 3375 tips and corrections for me to get the very, very basic paddle technique down.  Everyone was really nice about me being so green.  Even the girl who was unfortunate enough to sit in front of me and get continually splashed by my errant paddle topping a wave on the return arc.  =)  At the end of that first practice, during which I held on by my toenails and made myself look frantic and discombobulated for the good of my sport, the coach asked me how it went.


I couldn't wait to go again.  I died every practice. I crawled out of bed the following two mornings feeling like a 92 year old robot with rusty joints.  I gasped and splashed and wrestled with the paddle and the proper hip movement and the proper grip and the proper shoulder angle and the proper reach and the proper paddle depth and the proper facial expression, and I loved every minute.  My back gave me huge hassles, but I managed.  This sport is so much fun; partly because it is an all ages sport, with all levels of competitiveness from recreational to seriously committed.  And partly because it requires your team to have many paddles but one mind.

The most memorable practice was one where we did a drill that lasted 19 minutes without stopping.  And then we had to switch sides and do it again.  I almost defeated myself with that drill because our helmsman warned us the drill would be 19 minutes and I totally freaked out inside, certain I would die.  I did not, and in fact we paddled all 38 minutes with very little mental anguish.  I surprised myself with what I (we) could accomplish.

My team is pretty fierce.  Last year they drove themselves hard, and this year they wanted to take it a bit easier, do fewer festivals, and have a shorter season.  So we entered two festivals.  The first was in Victoria but I couldn't find childcare so I had to miss it, but the second was in Nanaimo this past weekend.  Holy shit was it ever fun!

Brent was working--in order to be able to go, I had to bring all the kids with me, and my mom came over on the ferry with her camper to babysit for me.  (YAY MOM!!!)  We camped at Englishman River Falls near Parksville for the weekend.

Ayden was camp champ; he helped me set up and organize the tent, and started the campfire (including chopping kindling).

The first evening was sprinkling rain but the trees kept the forested areas dry so the kids played in the woods and went to bed late, after a good dinner and some s'mores.  The next morning we were up early because I had to be at the paddler's village for 8:30.  Fed and ready for racing.  It was supposed to be warm and sunny.  It was not.

My paddling partner's name is Deb, and my team is the Pussycats.  Here we are waiting for our first race!  It was epic.  I was wildly nervous because there are over 70 teams competing at the Nanaimo Festival, and the energy and noise and excitement were incredibly high.  Also, I'm a new paddler.  I didn't want to slow the team down or lose my paddle or fall overboard or something.

I don't look super nervous here, but I am.

Paddler's Village is this huge collection of tents, teams, music, warmups, the marshaling tent, and the most hilarious volunteer ever who was marshaling coordinator and had his own mic.  For each $1000 he raised from the racers, he shaved half his head.  All the funds raised through the festival go to breast cancer research.

My first race was a bit of a shock.  We paddle faster and way more powerfully in the race than in a practice, and there was so much going on around us that it was hard for me to do anything but breathe and flail.  Races are 500 meters but feel like a million.  They last just over two minutes but feel like an hour.  The type of hour that flies by.  Afterwards we are all so spent we can't talk, paddle, move, or climb out of the boat.  We won our first race by almost 8 seconds!  I think we all surprised ourselves.... Coaching feedback I got from that race was ...You were a bit too excited.  Just as I thought.  Breathe and flail.  It's my signature move.

This is another team lining up to race

We won our second race too!  And improved on our time by 6 seconds.  I did much less flailing that time.  And was much, much calmer mentally.  Perhaps these two facts were related.

Winning both heats meant we were in the platinum competition for the following day; competing for top 4 or top 8...
It also meant some double fisting in the beer garden afterwards...

That evening we went out for dinner as a team.  My mom had brought the kids to watch us race, play in the playground, and browse the farmer's market, but they were tuckered out by mid afternoon so they went back to the campground while I went out with my team.  I had a rack of ribs, prawns, Ceasar salad, coleslaw, and a spinach dip appie.... And I ate nearly all of it.  We were all starving.

Next morning started even earlier, since our first race was early in the morning.  I woke up to several inches of rainwater in the vestibule of our tent, soaked race gear, clothing, shoes, and kid gear.  That was fantastic.  I drove back to Nanaimo in soggy gear, making it just on time.  We had an amazing start, our technique was good, and our timing was synchronized, but we still came third in that race.  We lost to stronger teams.  We needed to win first or second in that heat to qualify for top tier and be medal contenders, so our next race would determine where we placed in the 5th to 8th category.  But man, after winning so beautifully the day before it was a real hit to miss the top 4.  Our fourth race was later that afternoon, and we came second!  So we placed 6th overall among over 30 teams in our division.  Not too shabby!  We were SO CLOSE to 5th place; we lost by only 2/10ths of a second!  So painful!!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Canada Day

So Canada Day started off well, with a 4:30 call from dispatch to do this:

To fly over this:

And go here:

Later, after a crazy call and several hours of cleaning and restocking, I went home and we went to the local Canada Day festivities with these guys.... (and the fascist, who refused to be photographed)

Local festivities are considerably lower key than ones we have attended in the past, but had the super amazing perk of offering free airplane rides for the kids (!!!) ---Here are Riley and Ayden in the plane ready for takeoff... Riley blew me kisses as they taxied down the runway.  So cute!

Then we finished off with hot dogs and corn on the cob, and Brent took the kids to a movie and I went back to work.  Woohoo!! 

During the previous night's shift I had only about 2 hours of sleep so while we were waiting for the boys' airplane ride I had a nap in the van.  I'm not a napper.  I have a hard enough time sleeping at night let alone sleeping during the day, and I have too much energy to make naps realistic.  But that day I slept semi reclined in the front seat of our van with my face smashed in the upholstered arm of the chair, for an hour.  In the heat.  I was so fucking tired.

Happy Canada Day!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Big News!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So in February I took a big leap of faith and submitted a piece I wrote on being a paramedic to the CBC Canada Writes nonfiction contest.  I have not submitted anything to actual writing contests or for publication since 1999 when I was in the Creative Writing program at UVic (only for one year before switching back to English Lit at another university).  I have very little faith in the merits of my writing~but my good friend Tamie who is a REAL writer had encouraged me to get this particular piece published, so I went for it.  She actually encouraged me to publish it about five years ago, and I just got around to it this year  =)

I polished the piece a bit including slashing it in half to meet the maximum word count but I'm a terrible editor so when I go back and read it now, it just seems like a hot mess.  Most artists wallow around in self doubt; I've dug myself a burrow in it.  And convinced myself I'm awful.

This year, I leapt.  And last Friday I got a letter.  It said my piece made the long list of entrants which means that out of several thousand pieces, mine made the TOP 35!!!!!  This is wild.  Like, this contest is a pretty big deal in Canada.  FUCKING EH!!!

Here's a link.  To see my name published on the CBC Canada Writes website.

DYING of happiness.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

One Year In

We have lived here in our new town for almost a year now.  Which is nuts!  Time is ridiculous.  Because we are nearing the one year anniversary of our move I've been reflecting on a few things.  Our biggest fear in moving our little family was how the kids would adjust to a new school.  They're small, they had never moved communities before, and their school and neighbourhood were their entire world.  It is a lot to ask of a small person, to change all that on the whim of their parents.

But we also knew there would be major advantages for our kids to living up here, not least of which is learning to adapt to change.  We almost had no choice when it came to moving: financially we could have downsized our home but logistically it would have been impractical to do so with as many kids as we have.  We were drowning.  I had returned to work but that process kind of turned into a sour dead end (more on that soon).  We had reached the end of our commitment to Surrey and were free to look elsewhere for postings, had always talked about wanting a more rural life, and we are adventurous types.  If we CAN have an adventure?  We will pretty much always take it.

You know, adventures like traveling together.  Having four kids.  Adopting.  Leaping into crazy jobs with unpredictable elements and lots of adrenaline.  And taking an isolated post in rural BC.  I love my spouse.  We are perfectly matched (except when it comes to housework), he makes me crazy and happy all at once, and I love that we're the right mix for each other of adventurous and peaceful.  Adrenaline and chill.

"If it feels wild and terrifying, it's probably worth doing"

SO.  We applied for every small town post in BC and the Yukon, minimum population of 200 people.  We were wide open to the possibilities, and willing to go almost anywhere.  We kind of figured that if we were that open, we would get posted to Horsefly for sure.  But instead, a few weeks before Christmas, we got an 'unofficial' email letting us know we had been slotted for our current tiny town on Vancouver Island.  We couldn't tell anyone yet because it wasn't official, plus we didn't want to count our chickens too early.  A move like this isn't done until it's done.  So we waited until April for official confirmation that we had indeed been offered this post, and then we told people.  Including the kids.  Who cried.  We felt terrible because here we are all excited and looking forward to an adventure in a rural rainforest, and our kids are in tears.  We were moving them away from their grandparents, their home, their schools, their friends, our church, and every familiar element of community they had ever known.  Often, we make major decisions with input from everyone, but this time we made it as an executive team of two.  Gulp.  And leap.  We validated their feelings about moving, and talked up the plus sides of Island life.  More fishing!!  More camping!!  More freedom to roam!  Ocean!  They slowly came around.

The great part about having this move be isolated is that it is limited as far as time.  Anything that feels isolating or difficult, we can assure ourselves is temporary and not a life sentence.  But of course there's a sad flip side to that, too; as soon as we feel at home, it will be time to look at moving again.  Anyone we form a serious bond with, will be someone we say goodbye to in a few years.  The view that fills us with enthusiasm will never be something we can afford again, anywhere else we go.  Such is this life we have chosen.

It has really felt like God cleared a path for us before we came here.  The church family we found, the work family, the job opportunity for me, our house... All of it has seemed like a gift.  Not all of what we have encountered here has been easy.  Socially, making friends here is difficult.  I asked five or six different families for play dates for Riley in the beginning of the school year, and all of them said no on several occasions.  It wasn't until Riley burst into tears one day after yet another request was turned down and the other mom realized, turned around, and changed her mind did he make a single friend.  That was hard.  The first church we went to when we arrived, all 40ish attendees that day watched us enter, and watched us leave afterwards without saying a word.  Only the pastor introduced himself to us, on the way out the door.  It was like we had three eyes or something.  (We found a different church the following week that was more friendly and are quite happy there).

Groceries are fracking expensive.  I miss my in-laws.  I miss movies and going out for dinner and sometimes being anonymous.  I miss the fact that baseball and soccer seasons don't overlap in the Lower Mainland.
I miss websites.  Nothing here is really online in any true sense of the word.  Although we've found tremendous financial relief for everyday life, it is slow going tackling our mountain of debt.

Although we're by no means in Horsefly, we are significantly isolated.  Anyone who visits is like ...The road from Campbell River... Woah...  Both our jobs are quite a bit less exciting than our previous posts.  Time off is hard to come by.

But the fishing!  And the camping!  And THE BEACH!  The kids have all made friends, adjusted, settled in, and feel at home again.  They love the freedom to roam all over town, ride bikes and make forts and run Go Karts down the hill.  They adjusted.  They weren't untouched by the change, and they still curl up next to me and talk about wishing to move back on a regular basis.  They miss their family and friends and schools.  Saying goodbye is always hard.  It never gets easier, although you learn that you do indeed survive it.  Already we are more connected with the police community and that always entails a constant swinging door of goodbyes and hellos, since someone is always moving on or moving in.  We made some good friends nearby who were very similar to us; same religion, same reason for living here, same amount of kids.  Kristen is even the same degree of irreverent as me!  But this week they moved away.  Amarys keeps asking to go to her best friend's house (she met her match folks. And it was awesome), and doesn't really understand where she moved to...

99% of the move was amazing.  Life up here is pretty chill.  It suits us well, and we are so happy to have landed here, on our twelve feet.  Thanks for reading, and listening to my ruminating, as always.  xo.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Go Karts

Our neighbours found a Soapbox style Go Kart discarded on the side of the road and restored it.  Their son is one of our kids' friends and they spend 3/4 of their lives in a horde either at their house, or ours.  Last night they invited us out for a test run of the 'new' Go Kart and OMG it was so much fun!  Brent took some radar readings of their speed coming down the hill and Ayden won by a margin of one kph.  Lowest speed was 21 kph (Riley), then 26 kph (Matthew), 27 (neighbour kid), and 28 (Ayden).

Amarys rode twice, and was not exactly a fan...

Riley went so fast my photos were blurry except for that last one.  This is at 9:30 at night; as you can see we get more daylight up here above the 50th parallel than we used to get near the 49th.... It's bright as midday and perfect for Go Karts down one of the main streets in town.  I love how retro this was...