Some time ago, dp, in her blog, Food for Founder, did a "six degrees of penguination" post. At the suggestion of one of her readers, she posted six factoids about herself that her readers would otherwise never have known about her. It was a most entertaining post. At the end of it, she challenged other bloggers on her simply syndicated list to do the same. Here is mine. It worked out to have eight rather than six factoids, but after a bit of thought, I combined two of them so here are seven facts about me that most of you most likely didn't know.
1. As a young child I was terrified of all animals. I had forgotten that and even remember posting once that I've always been an animal lover. Not true! Before the age of six, I became hysterical whenever an animal approached. I think I came by that naturally, as my mother, while not hysterical, was also very wary of animals. One day, this little dog in the picture below followed me home from the corner store, after some people drove by, opened their car door, and pushed her out. We lived in a village in the center of a farming community, and it was quite common for this kind of thing to happen. I ran home screaming, and the dog followed, sitting by our front door, while my mother and I remained hostage in the house. When my dad came home, he finally had enough of my silliness, and he decided we would keep the dog. We named her Sparkie, and she became my best friend for the next 12 years. She died of breast cancer when I was writing my English Composition exam in my final year of high school. My dad buried her on our property. In this picture, my hands are holding her possessively, as my sister, on the left, reaches out to have a little hold as well. I really pretty much stole Sparkie from the rest of the family. I loved her, but I'm not proud of the life we gave her. It was a different time, and there were so many things I didn't understand. My consolation is that I learned a little more with each animal that I've had the honor of knowing.
2. I cannot whistle and I cannot roll my r's. Oh.. and one more thing - I only learned to swim when I was almost 40 years old. The "r" thing, while terribly annoying as a music teacher, is not important to this story, but the other two factoids are. The picture below was taken by a diver journalist in 1990. It's very difficult to make out, but it is of a Beluga whale that I met at Ingonish Beach, in Cape Breton, N.S. I had always wanted to swim with a whale, and when I heard on CBC that this whale was swimming with the people at the beach, I drove all day (from South of Halifax) to meet the whale. When I arrived, there was no whale to be seen, but I rented a room for the night and went back to the beach the next morning before sunrise. The person interviewed on CBC said that the whale responded to a whistle. Since I couldn't do that, I sat on the beach, "singing" in the highest pitched squeak I could summon. I was rewarded, after more than an hour of squeaking, by a sighting. I ran into the water, beside myself with joy. I had only learned to swim the summer before, and the only stroke I felt confident doing was the breast stroke. Each time I lifted my head to breathe, I saw the whale, and I forged on, just hoping I wasn't scaring it away. Finally, I lifted my head, and there was no sign of the whale. I was heartbroken, and put my face down in the water, planning to turn back to shore. As I looked down, there was only white beneath me, and I suddenly realized, there was "my" whale. I have mentioned this in one other blog entry, and I still hope to write, one day, a description of our swim together, that will do justice to the experience. For now, I will just say that when I returned to shore, there was an elderly woman waiting. She threw a blanket around me (it was Labor Day weekend, and the Atlantic had numbed my fingers and toes) and took me home to give me breakfast. Her name was Mary Barker, and we spent several hours together that day. A couple of weeks later, she sent me the newspaper article, as a diver journalist had also heard about the whale. It was decided that the whale was most likely an adolescent female, and she was approximately 13 feet long. After eight days, she disappeared from the area, and was not seen again. I like to think she is still swimming free, somewhere in the Atlantic.
3. I have a condition called Strabismus. This simply means my two eyes do not work together. It's quite common, and often corrected with surgery. I had four surgeries in my life, the first when I was only two and a half years old, but none were successful. Because my mother was so diligent about making me do my detested eye exercises, I am unusual in that I use both eyes. You've heard of ambidextrous people. Well, I guess I'm ambioctrous (or something). I do not need to cover one eye, but just switch back and forth from one to the other. I do this when I read, when I bike and when I walk. Most people either quit using one eye completely, eventually losing vision in that eye, or suffer from double vision. I subconsciously suppress whichever eye I'm not using, so there are no problems with double vision. (My mother is no longer alive, but I feel very grateful to her for persisting with those boring and dreaded exercises.) I just learned when I googled the condition that Abraham Lincoln also had the condition. He has vertical strabismus, so one eye is on a higher plane than the other. (I have both vertical and horizontal.) It doesn't bother me a lot, except that my students in the back row are never sure who I'm looking at. I always give them a little demo, and most of them eventually figure my eyes out with that aid.
4. When I was in my second year of university (music degree) at McGill, in 1968 (I think), I bought myself a motorcycle. It was a Yamaha 180 cc, and I loved it. I never told my parents about it. I never took a photo of it, but I think the one below is a close representation. I rode it, wearing a leather jacket that an opera singer/ex-gang-member gave me, and sometimes, mini skirts and knee-high white plastic boots. I'm not proud of this. Call it a phase:) I had been a very obedient kid growing up, and I guess this was my late rebellion. I may write more about this one day. The bike was eventually stolen. I had no insurance and was quite heartbroken. I bought another one a year of so later (Honda 450 cc), but I guess the spell was broken. I sold it, and shortly after that, became more or less obsessed with horses.
When I moved to Vancouver, Scott continued to run with me until about age 12, when I felt he was developing some stiffness. As it turned out, x-rays found no arthritis, but rather, a neurological illness. We stopped jogging, but I continued to take him for long walks which he loved. His favorite place was Stanley Park. I had no car, and when he became too weak to walk all the way there, Yellow Cab taxi company agreed to take us. The dispatcher's name was Scott, and every time I called (about three or four times a week), he would ask how Scott was doing. Along with white cars, Scott came to love yellow cabs. If one slowed down, or was parked, he always wanted to climb in the car. The taxi would drop us off by the trails near Second Beach. Then, when we had had our walk, I would put a towel down and Scott would sleep (see the picture below) until the cab arrived to take us home. When I finally had to put Scott down, Kitty (a good friend, who was also Scott's caretaker when I was at work), Sue (his favorite pet store person who gave him treats and also looked after him occasionally) and I took him, using a sling to support his hind end, to that trail, fed him his favorite meal, and then gave him a medication that the vet had agreed to. He fell asleep, and Sue, Kitty and I carried him to Kitty's car (also white, and also much loved, as she drove us many a day to Stanley Park and other parks as well) for his final ride to the vet. He never woke up, and it gives me great comfort to know his last day was as joyful as his life had been.
I have a tiny bit of Scott's ashes in this pendant which I still wear around my neck. I told myself I would just wear it for a few weeks but I've never taken it off.
6. I belong to a hockey pool (Fantasy Hockey). As much as I like to be active, I've never been very good at team sports. Most people are surprised at how much I enjoy making my picks and following the games each week . Sometimes, I do quite well. Last night, Henry Lundqvist, of the New York Rangers had a shut out, and I was the only one in the pool to have chosen him. Four points for a shut out so that was a good start to the week.
7. I like all dried fruits, including raisins. An oatmeal cookie or a muffin without raisins would be a disappointment. When I was two years old, my parents came home with some groceries. They put me in my playpen, while they put away the groceries, but gave me a large, unopened, and cellophane-wrapped box of Sun-Maid raisins to play with to keep me from fussing. In the time it took them to put away the groceries, I managed to open the box and eat the entire contents. I broke out in a terrible rash, but otherwise, suffered no ill effects. I also, as a child of about eight or so, decided that I hated milk and all dairy products, including ice-cream. I had more cavities throughout my teen years than anyone I have ever talked to. I have also spent more money on my teeth than I care to think about. I have finally given up eating sugar, as I discovered that my joints are much happier on a sugar-free diet. But I do eat all fruits, and I do take great care of my teeth now.
I apologize for having gone on and on, but must say, this was fun to write. Thanks for the idea, dp, and if anyone has made it all the way to the end, thanks for hanging in! I guess being long winded is another of my characteristics, but this one, I suspect most readers will have figured out long ago. If this inspires anyone to write about his or her own factoids, that would make me very happy.