Family Lines

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Month: November 2012

Lost without an address book

I’ve lost my address book. I must have put it down on a Calgary post office counter and then walked away. Without my address book. Now I’m lost.

It wasn’t any ordinary address book. I received it as a birthday present from my parents over 20 years ago. It was covered in a faux leather red finish and held the names and numbers of many people I’ve met throughout the past years.

The very first people I added into the book were friends I met while going to sailing camp. It was a Girl Guide camp where we learned how to manoeuvre two-person sunfish boats on Hardwood Lake, Nova Scotia.

I don’t remember the name of the girl I was paired with then. Just that she was afraid of the water and the boat and the wind and anything else that had to do with sailing. She wasn’t a good partner and when we fell into the lake one chilly afternoon, the instructor hauled her out of the water and took her back to dry land. I got stuck trying to right the overturned sunfish and then sail it solo to shore. Where she sat watching me.

Her name I did not seek to put into my address book. It was the other girls, who I sang with over bonfires, had meals with in the marquee and who exchanged friendship bracelets with me on the final day of camp. It’s the names of these girls, in faded ink after many years, that I’ll miss.

Another Girl Guide event I attended was Echo Valley 88. It was an international camp for girls in Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan. I was 15 years old and this was the first time I had been on an airplane all by myself.

I got to meet people from countries all over the world such as Japan and Ghana and France. The Japanese girls served us a traditional tea, the Ghanaian girls didn’t like their photo being taken and the French girls had hairy armpits. We were all friends in the end and their names were jotted down in proper alphabetical order in my red address book. Reiko, from Fukuoka, even wrote my name in Japanese near hers.

Reiko and I wrote letters back and forth as I did with several other chums. I like to put pen to paper and craft an exciting message to someone on the other side of the planet. It’s even better when I get a letter back.

By the time I got to university, e-mail addresses were being written underneath house and phone numbers in my book. I was using snail mail less and less as messages went electronic. But I still liked to send a postcard or two. Especially to the boyfriend I had to leave behind one summer.

He stayed in Nova Scotia to work on his family’s farm while I took off to lifeguard at a camp near Stouffville, Ontario. The internet wasn’t everywhere in the early 90s, as it is now, and there were only two payphones for about 30 staff. Keeping in touch meant by post.

I loved getting those letters written in his scrawled handwriting. They opened up his world to me sitting in Ontario. He told me stories about being on the tractor, about hanging out with his friends and about future plans.

A couple years later we went our own ways and I met someone else. This boyfriend went to northern B.C. to work for the summer. He wrote to me when he was working at a mine. He had to record people coming in and out of a giant hole in the ground. He was bored and had lots of time to write. He sent long, long letters and I relished every word.

While these boyfriends are gone from my life, I did like that they had etched their names into my address book. It was a link, a connection that was tactile and real. Not something that could be deleted with just the press of a button.

Today I have two electronic address books but it’s not the same. My old paper book was filled with notes and doodles from family and friends and former flames. I could open a page and see the shape of an S and remember whose story it once told.

The address book is gone. However, the memories are still here. Writing about it has made the loss feel a little less and turned a page for me.

Secret angels before Christmas

Seminary House at Acadia University.

Seminary House in December.

November reminds me of bubble baths and angels, secrets angels that is. During three years at Acadia University I took part in the secret angel tradition that my residence organized. Right before exams the treat-filled week was a nice reminder that Christmas was coming even if we had to struggle through exams first.

Everybody in Seminary House, my dorm of three years in the nineties, was a secret angel. We were a co-ed residence so the names of both girls and boys went into the hat to be drawn one by one. Shhh, don’t tell me who you picked.

Every day for a week you did something or bought something special for your person. One year my secret angel wrote me beautiful poems for seven days, along with sending me lots of other goodies. These mini escapes were especially appreciated because many students were hitting the books, getting ready for end of the term tests. I tried to do nice things for my person too and came up with interesting study breaks.

Once I was a secret angel to a woman who liked to take baths in the old-fashioned claw foot tubs that Seminary House still had on girls fifth. (Girls fifth was on the fifth floor of Sem and reserved only for girls who didn’t want to share bathrooms with stinky Sem boys.) I poured a whole (small) bottle of heavenly bubble bath into warm water and attempted to create a Sem-blance of a spa experience. I think I purchased a new towel for her to use as well. Then I left and had someone knock on her door to tell her a bath had been drawn. Much to her delight (I hope).

Another time I sent my person on a scavenger hunt that went all over the campus and ended back up in Sem with her prize being a stuffed animal.

My third and last year in Sem I broke with custom and asked to have the name of one of my best friends, Digger. She lived off campus but was considered part of the residence. I made a spot for her on the landing by the stairs so she could collect messages from her “Smangel” – super magnificent angel.

One day her Smangel told her to knock on doors asking, “Are you the one?”

When she got to Steve’s room he said, “Yes!” Then kneeled, handed her a rose, stood up, turned on his disc player and danced her out into the hallway. She loved it.

All week long she tried to deduce the identity of Smangel.

“It’s either Matt or Neil,” she would say. Certain of her answer.

I just listened.

Digger never knew I was Smangel until the reveal at the big Sem house Christmas party. This was the wrap up to the secret angel where we received a gift from our person. When I stood up to get her gift her face was brighter than the Christmas tree.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she scolded.




Hacking websites for kicks

This story is not a memory from long ago or a fond anecdote about a past adventure. It’s about being hacked a few of days ago. Right before I was a participant at a trade show. It makes me seethe now but it’s a lesson learned that I’ll be able to put to good use.

I’ve had websites and blogs for many years. I launched my first foray into HTML in 1999 when I took part in a Canadian internship that sent me to Africa. That website lived for over 15 years and no one ever touched it, except for me when I added photos and stories.

But somehow and for some reason, hackers targeted my two business websites that haven’t even been up for a year. I discovered it when I went to add something to one of my pages. It was blank except for one line at the lefthand top of the screen. I’m not going to repeat it here and give them the satisfaction of knowing they got to me.

So I spent two and a half days on the phone with my sites’ service provider trying to get the sinister codes removed. The company managed to do it an hour before I had to leave for the trade show. I shot something up on the homepages and left for the event hoping if people visited the sites they wouldn’t think I was a rinky-dink operation.

While mingling with the other small business owners at the sales event I vented about the situation. And found out I wasn’t alone. Two of the vendors had also been hacked and we shared stories about our ordeals.

At my booth at the trade show Nov. 16, 2012.

Listening to them I realized this is all part of owning a company. Bad things happen. Timing is irrelevant to whatever is going wrong. Things are going to occur that you don’t like and leave you ranting and raving and feeling terrible.

It’s OK to get down and feel blue for a moment. But then get over it. Don’t let the hackers have the last word. The two business owners I talked to set up their sites again and carried on. Like I’m doing today. Because this is what makes success worthwhile. To be able to clear the hurdles with some interesting stories in hand.


All my blog posts were wiped out. This is a test page.

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