Category Archives: self-discovery

Happy 25th to My Brown-Eyed Girl!

It was 25 years ago today, almost to the minute, that my water broke for the first time…what a strange feeling!  I was a couple months shy of my 25th birthday, and this kid was already 15 days late…I was ready to be done with being pregnant!  Most of my maternity clothes were winter ones, and Moncton, New Brunswick had been having a heat wave the previous two weeks…I only had two short-sleeved dresses that I could squeeze my swollen body into!  I mopped the mess up with a towel, and woke up Kaylee’s father to tell him the news.  Then we waited for something to happen.  And waited.  And waited…

Waiting for something to happen...

 

About lunch time, I walked down to the newspaper box around the corner and bought a paper, as per my usual routine.  I brought it home and read it.  Supper time came and went.  I consulted my labour coach, who suggested I call the hospital.  “Your water broke more than 12 hours ago?!!” asked the nurse in disbelief.  The memory is a little foggy, but I think she followed that with the politically correct version of “Get your ass in here!”

My labour coach, Mary Lyn, came and got us in her car…I brought along a beach towel to sit on to save her upholstery.  Once we’d arrived at the hospital, things went along pretty quickly…I was installed in the birthing room and an oxytocin drip was started intravenously to stimulate my labour.  My plan was to do everything naturally…we’d taken the Lamaze class, and I was not having an epidural!  I stuck to my stubborn plan throughout the four-and-a-half hours of hard, fast contractions…that’s what they called them in the class…sounds so much better than pain, doesn’t it?  My family doctor arrived at the critical moment, a surgical clip holding up his too-big scrub pants…the man probably weighed all of 125 lbs. soaking wet!  

Kaylee Marie was finally delivered at 11:32 p.m., all 9 lbs., 14 oz. of her.  She was 22 inches long, and had a mop of dark hair…her paternal grandmother’s Native Canadian heritage was evident in her colouring (eventually, Kaylee’s eyes would be brown).  I had planned to breastfeed the baby…she latched on immediately, and stayed there for the next 18 months, pausing only to sleep about 10 out of every 24 hours.  I perfected the art of dozing in our pink swivel rocker with a child attached…

Kaylee and I...two days old...

When she was 3 weeks old, I received a call from my doctor…there was a problem: Kaylee had a rare form of congenital hypothyroidism.  Luckily, they had been screening all babies born in New Brunswick for the condition for the previous ten years or so…if it hadn’t been discovered, Kaylee would have had a mental age of 4 for her entire life!  I remember taking her for her first blood tests at the hospital…I cried as much as she did when they poked a needle into my baby’s tiny heel, and filled little glass tubes with her precious blood!  The treatment for the condition was taking a synthetic thyroid hormone pill every day for the rest of Kaylee’s life.  Regular blood work every few months was also necessary to determine that the dosage was correct.  

Since Kaylee’s dad worked long hours at the radio station, I was her main caregiver…every day, we would go for a walk, often to the park nearby.  One beautiful summer day, I carried the stroller down the stairs (we lived in an upstairs apartment), and set it up outside.  I went back in to get Kaylee and the diaper bag.  Once I got the baby strapped in, I remembered that I’d left my purse sitting on the steps.  I tried to open the door…I had locked it…my keys were in my purse, inside the apartment…

There were no cell phones then, and I didn’t have any money with me.  I didn’t know my neighbours either, other than to nod as I went by…I saw one of those neighbours outside, and asked if I could use her phone to call Kaylee’s dad at work.  If you were paying attention, you might remember that I said he worked in radio…of course, he was on the air when I called.  I explained my predicament to the woman at the switchboard…she promised she would give him the message.  I don’t think I mentioned that we did not own a car, and the radio station was a half hour walk away…

I sat on our porch steps while I waited for what seemed like an eternity…there were definitely some tears shed (Kaylee cried a little bit too).  An hour-and-a-half later, we were no longer locked out of our apartment…I can’t remember if we ever went for our walk!

Kaylee got used to our walks…when she was about a year-and-a-half, I found her standing naked in our front hall, wearing only rubber boots and holding an open umbrella over her head.  “I’m ready to go for our walk now, Mom!” she announced.  After I took a picture (and put some clothes on her), we did go!

I used to buy Kaylee books all the time (this was long before I was in the book business!).  Her favourite was Peter Rabbitby Beatrix Potter…she had its text memorized and could “read” it along with me by the time she was 18 months old!  We were also frequent visitors at the library…she’s the only one of my kids who reads much now.

Peter Rabbit (photo from franshouseofdollsandtoys.com)

Kaylee did not inherit my love of bugs…she was three when she was freaking out about an insect flying around the bathroom.  I said, “Don’t worry…it’s just a fruit fly looking for an apple.”

Tearfully, she replied, “Well, give him one!”

Kaylee was in the first official kindergarten class in New Brunswick…she loved it, and her teacher, Mrs. S.  I went in every Friday afternoon after lunch to volunteer in her class…after an hour with 25 5-year-olds, I had a whole new respect for the job that teachers do!

When Kaylee started Grade 1, I put her in French Immersion, since we lived in a city where 1/3 of the people spoke French, in a province which was officially bilingual.  She was like a sponge, and was making fun of my limited French by the time she was 7!  “No, Mom…that’s not how you say it!”

When Kaylee was eight, her sister, Anna, was born…she was excited about being a big sister, but it wasn’t an easy transition for her.  She had been an only child for a long time!  I tell people that Kaylee was a “teenager” from the time she was eight…not easy for either one of us!

Kaylee, age 8...behind that innocent smile lurked the beginnings of a teenager...

Her father used to get free tickets to a lot of concerts, and when Kaylee was ten, we took her and Anna to see The Rankin Family…after the concert, we took them backstage to meet the band.  The Rankin girls made a big fuss over our kids…to this day, Kaylee and I still go to see them perform when they come to town.  Great Big Sea is another one of her favourite bands.

Kaylee inherited the bad knees that women in our family all have.  She was eleven when she was walking across our living room and fell down without warning.  A visit to the emergency room confirmed that her knee had collapsed, and that Kaylee had actually broken a one-centimetre piece off her kneecap when she fell.  They gave her a nice cast, and sent her home with crutches.  An appointment with the orthopedic surgeon was scheduled, and a few months later, he did arthroscopic surgery on both her knees to correct her “floating kneecaps.”  In Grade 7, I got a call from Kaylee’s middle school.  Her knee had collapsed again, and she had fallen down the stairs.  After another trip to the hospital, she came home with her leg encased in fibreglass…at least fibreglass was lighter than plaster!

Hope was born when Kaylee was 12…she loved her new little sister!  Kaylee was a big help with Hope when she was little…I will always be grateful to her for babysitting her two sisters while I was working (her father’s and my marriage had broken up by then)!       

Kaylee’s teenage years were not happy ones…we butted heads constantly, and she and Anna fought…a lot (I remember making frantic calls to her father in Ontario begging him to talk some sense into her!).  She was as stubborn as I am…the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!  For a while, Kaylee hosted an online radio show, and flirted with the idea of going into radio…her father worked hard to talk her out of that one! 

Kaylee as a teenager in the light of her computer screen...

Kaylee was about seventeen before she turned into a “human being” again.  She got her first job at Bulk Barn.  Working hard was good for her…she used to come home exhausted from cleaning all day, but she was happy to have her own money!

I was not happy when Kaylee decided at eighteen to get a tongue ring…luckily, her boyfriend at the time told her he didn’t like it, so she let it grow over.  I still love that boy…

That same year, Kaylee decided she wanted to move back to Moncton…she arranged to get an apartment with her best friend, and we packed up her stuff and took her up there.  Three weeks later, she called and told me that it wasn’t working out, and she moved back home again.

In December of 2006, she met Scott online on Plenty of Fish.  They were “an item” by January of 2007.  By then, Kaylee was working in a call centre uptown…she arranged to share an apartment with a friend she worked with, and moved out that spring.

Kaylee and Scott in their early dating days...

 That fall, my mother died…Kaylee was devastated…as the first grandchild, she and my mom had been close!  I didn’t have the money for plane fare to Ontario…it was Kaylee who bought two tickets for us with her credit card (I repaid her later), and helped me pack up my mother’s estate (along with my brother and sister-in-law).  When we returned, Kaylee got a small tattoo on her wrist in honour of her Gramma…

Kaylee and Gramma...Kaylee was about 5 in this picture...

Today, Kaylee and Scott are the parents of my 20-month-old granddaughter, Elise.  They have their own house about 25 minutes away, and come to see us every couple of weeks.  Kaylee is a great mom, and is perfectly happy staying home with the baby (I was itching to go back to work by the time my kids were 18 months).  She uses cloth diapers for Elise, and they’ve been teaching her sign language since she was an infant.  Kaylee has her own website promoting contests open to Canadians (she’s been entering, and winning, every contest she can find since she was in her late teens – she won a Vespa scooter a few years ago).  Kaylee loves 80’s music, and is vocal about human rights issues (homophobes had best be silent when Kaylee’s in the vicinity!).  She is also the Coupon Queen, hunting online for the best deals on groceries for her family.  Kaylee inherited my love of cooking and baking, and hates cleaning up as much as I do…luckily, Scott takes up the slack in that department!  Kaylee gets exasperated sometimes when I give her vague answers when she calls me to get my recipes!  She and Scott frequently entertain friends in their home.  Kaylee dabbles in photography and has thousands of photos and videos of Elise!

Kaylee with Elise...April, 2011

Kaylee and I are a lot closer now than we were when she was a teenager, although I often have to find out things through Facebook (like when she got pregnant, for example!).  I am proud of the young woman she’s become: smart, strong and loving!  Happy Birthday, Kaylee Marie!  I love you!

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Filed under family, memories, self-discovery

Who Am I?

As I approach my 50th birthday, I am having a bit of an identity crisis: I have been called many things by many people.  Who am I?

Aunt Wee-Wee

My ex-husband’s nephew couldn’t say “Wendy” when he was two, so for about a year, I was “Aunt Wee-Wee.”  He also couldn’t say “truck”, but that’s a whole other story… 

WendyShootsSheScores

That’s what my Broadcast Journalism professor called me in college…I smiled when he said it, but I hated it!  Luckily, I only had to put up with it for a little over a year, because I dropped out two months into the second year of the two-year course to follow my boyfriend (later husband, later ex) to a job in Newfoundland.

Gramma

For 20 months, I’ve been a grandmother to Elise, my daughter’s little girl.

Sweetie

That’s been Jim’s pet name for me since we got together three years ago…I call him “Honey.”

West Side Wendy

I operated a community newsletter for the west side of Saint John for nearly six years, and gave myself that handle because everybody on the west side has a nickname.  Four years later, people still call me that when I go over there to shop. 

writerwoman61

I came up with this alias when I entered the world of online dating in 2005.  Six years later, I still use it on my blog. 

Wendy Shoots

This was my birthname…I had it for 23 years.  I spent a lot of time spelling my last name.

Mom

I’ve been called “Mom” for 25 years, ever since Kaylee was born (or “Mother” when they want to piss me off). 

Wendy Matheson

I became Wendy Matheson when I got married in 1984.  I worked in communications and non-profit event management, and served on the boards of various organizations in two major cities.  Even though my marriage broke up in 1997, I kept “Matheson” (two of my children are also Mathesons).  I continued to write and operate various businesses under the name.  I have been that person for 27 years. 

Aunt Wendy

I’ve been an aunt for 33 years to my ex-husband’s niece and nephews, and my niece.

Wendy

I’ve been “Wendy” for almost 50 years.  In these days of social media, branding is ever more important if one wants to further one’s career.  If Jim and I get married, he wants me to change my last name to “VanWart” – he would rather I have his last name than my ex-husband’s.  I’m worried about the negative effect that might have on my “brand” that I’ve been working so many years to build up.  My ex and I are still friends, but each of us has found other partners (I have seen him twice since we split – he lives more than 1000 miles away).  Parenting our children is the only bond we have.

My blogging buddies know me pretty well…who am I?

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Filed under self-discovery

It’s All About You…Twenty Questions…

Image from anonymous8.com

I’m curious to see how much I have in common with the folks who read my blog…here are my answers to twenty random questions:

City life or country life? Country life.  I returned to the country 2 1/2 years ago after living in the city for 24 years.  I love it!

Antique furniture or modern furniture? Antique furniture.  Quality construction and beautiful woodwork combined with amazing fabrics is my idea of heaven!

Abstract art or traditional art? Abstract art.  Picasso is one of my favourite artists.

Cook or order out? Cook.  I’d rather cook it myself than eat in a restaurant.

Traveller or homebody? Homebody.  I usually travel only to see family or friends, although I do want to go to Tuscany, Italy some day!

Hotel or cottage? Cottage.  I like the privacy, and cooking for ourselves.

Sentimental or pragmatic? Sentimental.  I have every letter and card I’ve ever received, and every ticket/programme for every show I’ve been to!

Impulsive or cautious? Cautious.  I always think things through first.

Hugger or “don’t touch me”? Hugger.  It’s the law in Saint John.

Fighter or pacifist? Pacifist.  I hate conflict, and run from it at every opportunity.

Leader or follower? Leader.  I’ve always been independent.

Rule breaker or rule keeper? Rule keeper.  I’m afraid of getting caught!

Extrovert or introvert? Introvert, most of the time.   I do enjoy talking to new people though.

Coordinated or clumsy? Clumsy.  As in, “Don’t give her anything breakable to carry!”

Fiction or non-fiction? Non-fiction.  I read fiction, but I like true stories better.

Rock music or country music? Rock music.  I like some country, as long as it’s not “twangy.”

Singer or listener? Singer.  I can sing, but no one is going to pay me big bucks to perform.

Movies or TV? TV.  There are very few movies that I want to pay $10 to see.  I’d rather watch TV.

Drama or comedy? Comedy.  I’d rather laugh than cry!

Actor or audience? Audience.  I love live drama, but am not an actor!

 

Now it’s your turn…here are the questions again…copy and paste into the comment section, and fill in your answers!  Don’t be shy!

City life or country life?

Antique furniture or modern furniture?

Abstract art or traditional art?

Cook or order out?

Traveller or homebody?

Hotel or cottage?

Sentimental or pragmatic?

Impulsive or cautious?

Hugger or “don’t touch me”?

Fighter or pacifist?

Leader or follower?

Rule breaker or rule keeper?

Extrovert or introvert?

Coordinated or clumsy?

Fiction or non-fiction?

Rock music or country music?

Singer or listener?

Movies or TV?

Drama or comedy?

Actor or audience?

 

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Filed under blogging, books, cooking, friends, music, self-discovery, travel

Things I Learned This Weekend…

Here are a few of the things I learned this past weekend:

1. That we have a new bird hanging around our back deck.  Anna called me on Saturday to let me know that we had a brown-headed cowbird.

Brown-headed cowbird (photo from allaboutbirds.org - couldn't find Anna's photo!)

  

2. That the Habitat for Humanity ReStore has neat stuff.  We went on Saturday morning.  In addition to every building material known to man, there were used books (nothing I wanted for the store though), brand new 1″ binders, used furniture and appliances, and even scented candles!  We were looking for lumber to extend our fence posts higher.  We got two bundles of nine 2″x 2″‘s, 8 feet long for $10 each.  We will string twine between them and put streamers and ribbons on the twine to hopefully prevent the deer from trying to jump the fence.  As the teenage boy loaded the wood into the back of the van, I drew a blank on how to thank him:  He was only about 17, so he wasn’t really a “Sir”.  I didn’t want to call him “Son”, because he wasn’t my son, and I didn’t want to sound ancient.  So I said, “Thank you…dear!” which is what Saint Johners call people that they’re not on a first-name basis with.  I don’t think he heard me… 

3. That Kaylee makes better homemade pizza than her mother (yes, I said that).  We had supper at her house on Saturday, and she made three awesome pizzas using essentially the same dough recipe that I do!  I need to get some pizza stones…

4. That 19-month-old toddlers are great imitators.  Scott set his ice cream bowl down on the floor for the cat to lick, and a couple minutes later, Elise bent from the waist, stuck her tongue out and her bum in the air, and tried to lick the bowl too!  We all wished we’d had a video camera going at the time.

Elise getting fit with mommy's weights...

5. That our van registration expired over a month ago.  As we drove home from Kaylee’s, there were four Rothesay Police vehicles setting up a roadblock…they waved us through.  Jim asked me to check the van registration in the glove compartment just in case…it’s a really good thing they didn’t stop us…it would have been a $185 fine! 

6. That even the deer don’t like Rebecca Black’s song.  When we came home from Kaylee’s house, there were about 5 deer grazing in the side yard.  They stood and looked at us as we got out of the van.  Then Hope had an idea:  she did a perfect rendition of Rebecca Black singing “Friday”, complete with nasal congestion.  All the deer took off running immediately! 

7. That people running extra-curricular programs in our schools expect way too much from the kids (and their parents).  Hope had a two-hour cheerleading practice on Saturday, followed by 8 hours of competition and another 2 hours of practice on Sunday.  Devin spent more than 24 hours at his school on Saturday and Sunday doing backstage stuff in preparation for the upcoming musical.  He’ll be at school every night this week until about 11.  Anna has two 5-hour+ cheer practices this week to get ready for their first competition on Saturday (about 7 hours).  At least, Jim enjoys driving… 

8. That I’m too old to stay up until midnight three nights in a row.  Late nights Thursday, Friday and Saturday led to a Sunday migraine.  I missed Hope’s cheer competition and my sister-in-law’s birthday party (Happy Birthday, Tracy)!  On the plus side, Hope’s team didn’t get any deductions this time (but she managed to leave her track pants and jacket at the host school – we hope to get them back tomorrow!).

Hope in her sparkly eye makeup from the cheer competition…

9. That Anna will do laundry if I’m sick.  She even came up and asked if we had any darks in our hamper she could do for us!  It’s a good thing I was lying down at the time.  Now, if I can get her to pick up her dirty dishes off the family room floor…

10. That the price of lactose-free milk can jump by 25 cents a litre in one go.  We now pay $5.19 for 2 litres (a litre is a little bigger than a quart) of Lacteeze (three people in the family are lactose-intolerant).  We go through about 3 litres of Lacteeze a week, in addition to 4 litres of regular milk.  Thank goodness gas prices only go up 2 to 3 cents a litre at a time!

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Filed under cooking, family, rants, satire, self-discovery

Adventures of a Reluctant Cheer Mom…Wendy Does Zumba…

Note: This is a continuation of a series I started last year during cheer competition season.  Read the first two installments here and here.

Last night, I was dragged  went to a Zumba fundraiser for Hope’s cheerleading team at her school.  Everyone I know who’s tried Zumba raves about it: “It’s so much fun!”  We were told to arrive early, because there’d be a line (there wasn’t).  We paid our five dollars, and got a small piece of paper to write our names on to win a free Zumba class.  Hope wasted no time telling me that she wasn’t going to stand beside me.  “I don’t know you,” she declared.  Apparently, my old blue T-shirt and navy yoga pants (slightly wrinkled) weren’t up to her standards (she should be thankful I didn’t opt for shorts – I haven’t shaved my legs in a few months)!  I did drag out my brand new white Dr. Scholl’s (“I’m gellin'”) sneakers for the occasion!  Nobody else had those!

 I used to work out three times a week…those days are long gone.  Let’s just say I’m no “Skinny Minnie”…the only exercise I get now is walking between the computer and the refrigerator, and chewing.  I love to dance, but I make it up as I go along, much to my children’s horror (I tried to learn the tango once…it was a disaster)!  Looking around the room, I was happy not to be the oldest one there (I was 37 when I had Hope)…some of the cheerleaders had brought their grandmas along.  There was even one cheer dad, whose belly hung far over the waist of his shorts…I really hoped he didn’t have a heart attack during the class!

 As the cheer moms and girls milled about, sizing up the competition waiting for the class to start, we were approached by one of the Zumba instructors…she was about my age and carried a clipboard.  Attached to the clipboard, there was a waiver releasing the Zumba people, the event organizers, the cheerleading team, the school, the school board, and God, from any liability should anyone incur an injury.  This should have raised warning bells for me, but I quickly signed the paper with both mine and Hope’s names (I even remembered to give the pen back!).

At this point, I noticed that both Zumba instructors had little streamers attached to their pants at various points…I wondered why, but kept my curiosity to myself.  The woman who had the clipboard also had something around her hips that I’d seen belly dancers wear:

She wore something like this (photo from Henry G Dance Accessories)...

Finally, it was time for the class.  The older instructor gave us a bit of a rundown about Zumba, and stressed that it takes three or four classes to get comfortable doing it (I beg to differ).  The younger instructor, a tall blonde about nineteen, told us to line up…adults on one side, and kids on the other.  I made sure there was lots of space around me.  Then the hell music started.  Remember the eighties, when aerobics were all the rage?  I used to imitate the aerobics instructors, and my kids would laugh themselves silly!  Picture aerobics, with dance music (salsa instead of disco)…that’s what we were trying to do doing.

Just when I’d just about have the routine figured out (usually halfway through the song), it would change!  I refrained from jumping, as I didn’t want to put an eye out damage my bad knees.  I was clapping at the wrong time, going left instead of right, and flailing my arms helplessly.  My hips refused to move the way the young nymph instructor’s did…if a priest had seen the way she was throwing her booty around, he would have performed an exorcism on the spot (when I was relating this to Jim, he regretted his decision to stay home)!  Those streamers on her pants were horizontal!  When she told us to “shimmy,” I didn’t even try! 

Three songs in, I was breathless, and in desperate need of oxygen water.  Filling my water bottle up beforehand would have been an excellent idea (I had about a quarter bottle left from work).  I waited until the end of the fourth song before hauling my butt across the floor getting my water from my purse (which I’d conveniently left in the far corner of the gym).  I downed it in one gulp!

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one having difficulty…several of the other moms were looking a little winded and bewildered (although the seventy-year-old behind me was whooping it up)!  I hoped that most of them were concentrating hard enough on watching the instructors that they wouldn’t notice how badly I was doing!  Hope, however, could see everything from across the room…if looks could kill, I wouldn’t be alive to write this!

The event was scheduled to end at 7:30, but the drill sergeants instructors kept on going.  At 7:40, I dragged Hope out the door…Anna had to be at her school for a dance in 20 minutes!  For once, I was thankful for extracurricular activities!  In the van, Hope told Jim and Anna about how badly I’d embarrassed her.  Kaylee called on my cellphone to confirm that I was still alive. 

I really hope we didn’t win the free class…I know some of you guys think Zumba is “fun”, but I’ll stick to walking and riding my bike!      

 

 

 

58 Comments

Filed under satire, self-discovery

What a Difference a Year Makes!

One year ago today, I sat down at my computer and began an odyssey into a strange and wondrous place that I knew virtually nothing about: the blogosphere.  Armed with a desire to get back to writing regularly after a three-year hiatus, I sent my thoughts hurtling into cyberspace.  What a positive and enlightening journey it’s been!

The Readers

If people didn’t read my blog, it wouldn’t have a reason to exist…I am so thankful that each of you takes the time from your busy day to come for tea in Hammond River!  I would like to make special mention of my first blogging buddy, Jane at PlaneJaner’s Journey.  Jane’s been with me since the very first day, encouraging me and telling others about me!  I will always be grateful that we found each other, Jane, and am proud to call you my friend!  When I first started, hits on my blog averaged about 35 or 40 hits a day…now I’m getting 125 to 150 a day!  I’m closing in on 25,600 hits, and 4100 comments for the year!  If you’re a “lurker”, don’t be shy…please leave me a comment…I promise to answer it!

The Community

I really had no idea that there were so many crazy talented writers out there when I started this project…smart, thoughtful, funny people who have taught me so much about good writing!  I have blogging buddies on five continents!  I’m sending all you guys a virtual brownie (I hope nobody’s allergic to cyber-sweetness!)…thanks for “getting me”!  In honour of my “blogiversary”, I have added several new people to my blogroll today (see “He Said”, “She Said”, and “They Said”).  Please take the time to check out their blogs: there’s nothing that makes me happier than hooking people up with great writers!  Many of these folks have been Freshly Pressed, and most are the recipients of multiple awards…Mama don’t allow no junk on her blogroll!

Take two...they're small...I made them just for you!

The Posts

If someone were being really nice, they would probably classify my blog as a “cornucopia” of topics.  Truthfully, I write what I feel like writing…several of my readers have commented that they never know what I’m going to write about next!  I like not being “predictable”…that equals “boring” for me!  Some days, I’m a “mommy blogger”, others I’m a “foodie”.  I write about gardening sometimes, and tell stories about the wild animals that share our land.  Other times, I’m an amateur historian, or relate stories of my own childhood.  I rant…a lot!  I talk about music, and books, and our bookstore.  I’ve dabbled in fiction.  I even took an action figure on a tour of our city!  Changing things up is how I like to roll!

Recognition

Herding Cats in Hammond River has been Freshly Pressed twice by the powers that be at WordPress.  Thanks to the folks there for maintaining a quality blog site…there were a few technical issues last night, but they seem to have been resolved!  My fellow bloggers have been very generous about awards: They think my blog is “Bloody Brilliant”, “Versatile”, “Stylish” and “Memetastic”!  Thanks for the love, you guys!

The Family

I couldn’t do my blog without the love and support of my family…thanks for waiting patiently for dinner while I finish a post (or photograph what I cooked), and letting me make fun of you in public!  With you guys around, I’m sure I’ll never run out of things to write about!

Here’s to another year of Herding Cats in Hammond River!  Thank you, everybody!

Hugs,

Wendy

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Filed under blogging, friends, self-discovery

Rock It Science…Couch Curling for Dummies…

I admit it…I am what’s known as a “couch curler”…I have watched and enjoyed curling every winter for the last 30 years or so (I can’t play because of my bad knees).  It all started when I was about eighteen…I was just coming off my Wayne Gretzky crush, when I stumbled on a Junior Curling event on TV.  It was 1980, and skip John Kawaja from Northern Ontario won it all.  He was gorgeous (Wayne who?)!

John played Third for Ed Werenich's winning 1983 Brier Team...that's John second from the right...photo by Doug Shanks, Canadian Press

Having been made aware of my love for a sport that causes many Americans to scratch their heads and ask “What’s that?”, my friend Todd urged me to do a piece on curling: “Wendy…you really, really, really need to post something about the sport of curling.”  The Brier (the Canadian national men’s tournament – the Super Bowl of curling) was just played this past weekend, and I like my readers to be happy, so…here goes…I present “Couch Curling for Dummies”, a fun guide which will allow you to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of a sport that most people south of the 49th Parallel don’t know exists!

The Game Has Ends and is Called a Draw Even When the Score Isn’t Tied

A traditional curling match or draw has ten ends, which aren’t “endings”, but sections of the game, like innings in baseball or quarters in football (a match can be shorter than ten ends, if one team is getting their butts kicked and forfeits!).  Each team delivers eight stones for each end.  The ends themselves aren’t timed individually, but each team has 73 minutes to throw their stones during the regular game, and the option of taking two 60-second timeouts.  If extra ends are required, they get an extra 10 minutes and one timeout per end to play. 

The Team Has Ends

Each curling team or rink has afront end: the lead and the second.  The lead delivers his two stones, followed by the second, who throws his two.  These folks are the main sweepers for the team, usually the muscles of the outfit.  The team’s back end is where the brains are, the third (or mate, usually only in the platonic sense) and the skip.  The third plays after the second, and offers advice to the skip about team strategy.  The third also sweeps when the lead and the second throw their stones.  The skip is the boss, and is usually the best player on the team (he almost never sweeps, unless a stone needs “extra help” to get where they want it to go!).  He calls the shots…skips need to be both smart and good yellers (see “What the Skip Yells” below).  People who curl nearly always have day jobs…curling doesn’t pay the big bucks like hockey, and players usually travel on their own dime!  Curlers are people you’d run into when you’re getting groceries or picking up your kids at school.  I’ve never heard of a curler using “performance-enhancing” drugs.

The Game is Played on a Sheet With Houses and Hacks at Each End

The sheet is a carefully-prepared patch of ice about 150 feet long by 16.5 feet wide.  Small droplets of water are intentionally sprayed on the ice that cause irregularities on the surface (pebble), allowing the rocks to curl (travel in a curved fashion rather than a straight line).  At each end of the sheet, there are three concentric rings, a red one measuring 4′, surrounded by a white one measuring 8′, inside a blue one measuring 12’…these are the houses, or the targets that the players are shooting for.  In the middle of the house is the button, a one-foot circle which is the bullseye…stones of the same colour closest to the button at the conclusion of an end will score (see “How To Score Points”).  Twelve feet behind each button are the hacks, two rubber-lined holes 3″ from the centre line which give the thrower something to push against with his foot when delivering the throw (he would choose the appropriate hole based on which foot he pushes with).  There are also horizontal lines on the sheet: the near hog line is closest to the hack…the player must let go of his rock before the stone touches the near hog line, and the rock must cross the far hog line (without crossing the back line or touching the sides) to be in play.  The T-line goes through the middle of the house, and is the point where the front end has to stop sweeping once the rock touches it.  Only the skip can sweep the rock after it’s crossed the T-line, and this is also the only point at which the other team can sweep a rock. 

Curling sheet – CL: Centreline • HOL: Hogline • TL: Teeline • BL: Backline • HA: Hackline with Hacks • FGZ: Free Guard Zone (diagram from Wikipedia.org)

Everybody Has A Broom, Rocks, a Slider and a Gripper

Each team member carries a broom, which is really a long-handled brush used to balance when delivering a rock, clean the ice in front of a stone (sweeping lightly), and sweep a rock, which means really digging into the ice in front of a stone while it’s in motion to make it go faster and straighter (this is where the “muscle” comes in for the front end of the team).  The rocks are 38 to 44 lb. polished chunks of granite fitted with coloured handles, usually either red or yellow in tournament play.  A narrow 5″ ring on the bottom of the rock is the only part of the stone that actually touches the ice.  Sliders are slipped over the toe of one shoe of the curlers on their sliding foot so that they can glide easily down the ice when delivering their shots.  The other shoe is their gripper.  Some curlers use curling gloves to grip the rock or the broom more easily.  Players use stopwatches to track rock speed and make decisions about strategy.

Taking A Shot

To deliver a shot, a player crouches and places his gripper shoe in the hack with the stone in one hand (resting on the ice) and his broom in the other.  Aiming toward the skip who is holding his broom where he wants the stone at the other end of the sheet, the player rests his own broom on the ice for balance as he pulls the stone back, then lunges smoothly out from the hack pushing the stone ahead while the slider foot is moved in front of the gripper foot, which trails behind.

The Canadian team taking a shot at the 2006 Olympics (photo by Bjarte Hetland)

Once the rock comes out of the shooter’s hand, it’s up to the sweepers to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to go…the skip tells them what to do.

Types of Shots

Making good shots in curling takes years and years of practice, as well as a steady hand.  Good sweepers help too.

A draw shot is one that is simply sent into play without knocking another stone out.  A freeze is where a stone is shot so that it lands as close as possible to another stone already in play, and makes it nearly impossible to take out.  The draw and the freeze are the precision shots, because they travel much more slowly than the takeout shots, and are harder to control. 

A takeout is one where the shooter is removing another stone in play by hitting it with his own: in a peel, the shooter hits the other stone hard enough that the shooter’s stone will also go out of play (if he wants to blank the end – see “How To Score Points”).  A raise is where the shooter uses the delivered stone to bump another one forward, and a raise takeout is a shot in which the delivered stone bumps a second stone which in turn knocks a third stone out of play (also called a runback).         

What the Skip Yells

1. “Hard” or “Hurry Hard“.  Tells the sweepers to sweep harder and faster.

2. “Offor “Whoa”.  Tells the sweepers to stop sweeping a rock, but not necessarily cleaning it.

3. “Right Off“.  Tells the sweepers not to sweep or clean a rock.

4. “Never“.  This lets the sweepers know that the rock needs to curl and that they should stay off of it.      

Note: These commands rarely work with children or if one is caught in a traffic jam.

How to Score Points – Slide Softly and Carry a Big Hammer

Points are scored after each end depending on how many rocks a team has closest to the button in the house without an opposing stone intermixed (one point for each rock)…with good players, it is rare to score more than 3 points in a given end (common scores are 1 or 2).  The rock closest to the button is called the shot rock, while the next closest one is second shot, and so on.  Only one team can score points in each end.

The team who delivers the last rock of the end is said to have the hammer – this is a huge advantage.  Who has the hammer in the first end is usually determined by a coin toss…after that, whoever didn’t score in the preceding end has the hammer in the next one.  If the end is blanked, the team who has the hammer keeps it for the next end.  If a team manages to score in an end where they don’t have the hammer, it’s called a steal (no one is penalized in this case).

After the Game

Once a draw is finished, the players generally shake hands, gather up their stuff, and get off the ice.  Later, they may stack the brooms, which means socializing with each other or their opponents, usually over a beer or two.  They might also trade curling pins which are often collected by players and spectators alike, and displayed on sweaters, vests and hats.

Pin collectors Roger and Bob compare notes at this year's Brier...photo by Morris Lamont, London Free Press

The next time you’ve got three hours to kill on a winter weekend, flip on a curling game on TSN, and curl up on the couch with some popcorn!  I’m looking forward to watching the PVR of The Brier tonight, even though I already know who won.  I’ll be yelling “Hurry hard!” at Glen Howard’s Ontario team!

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