Labrador and Home Again

Labrador - that big chunk of land east of Quebec,  2.5 times larger than Newfoundland with almost 8000 km of coast line (map from 1871).

Labrador – that big chunk of land east of Quebec, 2.5 times larger than Newfoundland with almost 8000 km of coast line (map from 1871).

My parents left Labrador in 2002 so that Dad could get a new set of lungs to replace the scarred pair he had from working thirty years in an iron ore mine. They moved from Labrador City, a town with a couple of traffic lights to the heart of downtown Toronto, a city of two million, expecting they’d find a match in six months and return home.

Dad never saw Labrador again.

Dad received his transplant in 2005, two and a half years after he and Mom moved to Toronto. It was incredible to see the change in him one month post-transplant; he went from wearing an oxygen mask and being pushed in a wheelchair to walking with ease without an oxygen tank in sight. Dad’s transplant team of physiotherapists, counselors, nurses and doctors were just as excited as we were to witness his progress.

Soon Dad was well enough to go home, but never to Labrador.

Labrador City’s hospital didn’t have the facilities or equipment needed to care for a post-lung transplant patient. St. John’s did, but it was still 2000 km from their home, so Mom and Dad decided to move to Ottawa because my sister and I lived here, and of course being able to see their grandsons regularly didn’t hurt either.

Unfortunately Dad’s recovery didn’t last long. It’s a tough job trying to fool your body into accepting an organ it knows has no business being there. Although Labrador was out of the question, we had lots of family within driving distance of St. John’s who we planned to visit, but Dad never recovered enough to travel again.

Dad passed away December 30, 2006 and was buried in a small cemetery just up the hill from his childhood home in Dildo, Trinity Bay.

In the summer of 2007 Mom and I left Ottawa and drove 1400 km to Labrador City. I was to start working in Afghanistan that fall and Mom wanted to decide what to do with the house before I left. I wish now that we had waited longer or decided to come back again in a year before making any decisions. But in the end Mom let it go and sold it. She said it no longer felt like her home. Looking back I think the truth was she couldn’t feel anything at that point except grief and loss.

Mom stayed in Ottawa and I left for Afghanistan.

I worked on the NATO base in  Kandahar for four years and a couple more in the Alberta oil sands before returning to Ottawa in the summer of 2013. That fall I started working again with Nasittuq (a company that spans the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Labrador), moved into an apartment with my boyfriend (a first for me) and started saving my pennies so I can build a tiny house on wheels. The plan is to drive it to Newfoundland and get to work on making a new home for all of us on the land Dad left us in Trinity Bay.

I haven’t been back in years but my dreams still take me to Labrador West. I dream of riding my bicycle on empty streets in the middle of the night; playing softball in NDA’s parking lot with its patches of cement surrounded by deep puddles from melting snow banks; driving a beat-up station wagon near my best friend’s cabin in Duley Lake when I was twelve years old; racing across Wabush Lake on a skidoo; canoeing to our cabin and skinny-dipping in Moosehead Lake as a teenager; getting lost in the halls of Labrador City Collegiate my first day in grade 7; showing up late for a final exam at LCC before being allow to graduate from grade 12. Once awake there are flashes of memories so strong that I am shocked when I realize I can no longer walk through the back door of 4 Juniper and watch CBC’s Here and Now with Mom and Dad.

Mom and Dad loved Labrador, and especially loved escaping to our cabin on Moosehead Lake.

Mom and Dad loved Labrador, and especially loved escaping to our cabin on Moosehead Lake.

I can however grow some Labrador connections here in Ottawa. I can reconnect with old classmates, former teachers and neighbours from Labrador City. I can also forge some new ones with people from Happy Valley – Goose Bay, North West River, Hopedale, Cartwright, Natuashish, Rigolet and the many places in Labrador I have yet to explore. It’s hard to believe how much our experiences differ depending on which part of Labrador we come from, despite having the smallest federal riding in all of Canada with just over 30,000 people.

The Labrador Society of Ottawa has been connecting Labradorians in the nation’s capital for more than twenty years, and it’s on the verge of collapse due to lack of members and volunteers. Today I will be attending my very first meeting and I’m hoping there will be enough of us there to keep this organization going. I expect we’ll have a lot of work ahead of us and will need some help if we’re to attract new members and create events that will engage all generations of Labradorians and friends of Labrador.

In case you're in the neighbourhood grab some grub and join us.

In case you’re in the neighbourhood grab some grub and join us.

I don’t know what will happen at the meeting today, but I do know that once the decision has been made, once we sit down to our fine potluck and reminisce with old friends or share stories of the Big Land with new ones,  I know I’ll feel closer to Labrador than I have in a long, long time. And to Dad too.


UPDATE:  We had more than enough people attend our AGM to put together a strong Executive for 2014-2015. I was elected as PR and Membership Director along with Carol Dunphy who is also from Labrador City. Our Executive is now organizing a dinner and dance for late May or early June.  I’ve got a bit of a learning curve ahead of me as I navigate through Twitter and get the Labrador Society website up and running. Stay tuned!

Tiny House Workshops Coming to Canada

Yours Truly (aka The Canadian), BA (aka Ms. Bed Over My Head) and Nina (aka T-Homie) at the Four Lights tiny house build in Sebastopol, California, February 2013.

Yours Truly (aka The Canadian), BA (aka Ms. Bed Over My Head) and Nina (aka T-Homie) at the Four Lights tiny house build in Sebastopol, California, February 2013.

A lot has happened in the SIX months since I last wrote, but that update will have to wait because first you need to know about some tiny house workshops coming to Canada in June, July and September.

Four Lights will be holding tiny house workshops in Toronto on June 22-23 and in Vancouver on September 7-8. Tumbleweed’s workshop will take place in Vancouver on July 20-21.

Both companies are running most of their workshops in the States, so check out their sites to see if a trip to visit our southern neighbours will better fit your schedule.

I’ve attended tiny house workshops with both Four Lights and Tumbleweed, and while both conferences were very informative, my hands-on experience with the Four Lights workshop was the most helpful. Tumbleweed had many engaging speakers lead by the fantastic Dee Williams, however Four Lights had the magic combination of Jay Shafer + Daniel Bell delivering both the artistic and technical know-how needed to build a tiny house. Plus, I made

My front row seat to the Jay & Daniel show (Four Lights workshop, February 2013)

My front row seat to the Jay & Daniel show (Four Lights workshop, February 2013)

some life-long friends in BA and Nina during the Four Lights workshop and the 3-day tiny house build which followed in Sebastopol, California.

Jay Shafer is a self-taught tiny house builder, building his first house in the 90s, founding Tumbleweed and then moving on to start Four Lights Tiny House Company about a decade later in December 2012. Daniel Bell is a formally trained carpenter who runs his own construction company and teaches carpentry to high school students.  Together they are practical magic.

It wasn’t just the combination of artistic genius and technical skill that Jay and Daniel brought to our workshop, it was getting to benefit from both Jay’s “This is how I design beautiful and functional homes” and Daniel’s “This is the how and why of correct building techniques.

They worked so well together and ensured we all had some hands-on practice before the weekend was over. I was also lucky enough to assist in building one of these tiny houses immediately after the clinic, an opportunity I hope Four Lights will try to make available after most of their workshops.

If you’re curious about Four Lights workshops, check out this sneak peek video.

I’ve purchased my own tiny house plans from Four Lights, but have lots to sort out before I can start building. In meantime I would love to hear from other tiny house enthusiasts in the Ottawa area and beyond. Hope to hear from you soon!

Poppies and Coffee: A Remembrance Day Confession

Poppies and coffee and a couple of Reid women trying to do good. Lori in Afghanistan 2008 (photo by Yannick Beauvalet) and I in Bosnia 2000 (photo by Denise Dowdy). Timmies photo by dautruong52 at

Poppies and coffee and a couple of Reid women trying to do good. Lori in Afghanistan 2008 (photo by Yannick Beauvalet) and Me in Bosnia 2000 (photo by Denise Dowdy). Timmies photo by dautruong52 at

The day before Remembrance Day I changed my profile picture to one of the last ones taken of me as a Canadian Forces soldier. The photo was snapped at Camp Black Bear in Velika Kladusa, Bosnia during the fall of 2000 and I’m wearing my very first medal as I stand in front of a painted map of Canada, positioned just so you can see Newfoundland behind me.

I posted that photo on Facebook because it was almost Remembrance Day and I was proud to have been a soldier. I also missed all my friends from those days, so I tagged everyone I could think of from my home unit in Halifax and some of the people I worked with overseas and elsewhere. Their response was fantastic! I heard back from so many friends and I checked in a few times on the morning of the 11th to say hi back and “Like” all the great posts about Remembrance Day. Although I wasn’t heading downtown for the ceremony, I knew good and well the importance of Remembrance Day and I was going to make sure I had my own meaningful moment of silence at 11 am.

And so it was at one minute before the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I found myself in line at a drive-thru of Tim Hortons.

I was a Canadian Forces veteran who had the honour of serving as a cenotaph guard twice in my seven years in the Reserves and here I was at 11 am on Remembrance Day nosing my car along to order two fucking double-doubles and a breakfast sandwich.

I couldn’t believe I forgot. How do you do that? Yes, it was a busy day and my sister and I were scrambling to finish painting her basement, but my GOD – hundreds of thousands of Canadians across the country paying their respects to the men and women who sacrificed so much, and I’m in a Timmies drive-thru? Seriously?

It was too late to pull out; at least two cars were already behind me. Live 88.5 had switched to a Remembrance Day montage on the radio, Tim Hortons had stopped serving customers and I started tearing up. I get emotional about Remembrance Day anyway, but I was also feeling bad about forgetting. By the time the moment of silence descended I was openly crying. Oh good Lord, do I have to do this here? I thought about Afghanistan and Bosnia and my colleagues who witnessed the horrors of Rwanda. Finally the moment of silence lifted. And then came Willie McBride, also known as The Green Fields of France, No Man’s Land or as I apparently remember it, The Saddest Song in the World.

I have previously mentioned a few songs that still make me cry, but I had completely forgotten about Willie McBride. Let me be clear, Willie  McBride doesn’t make me cry; it makes me sob. Uncontrollably. Not just because of the haunting melody or the tragic story about the losses of war, but because I heard my cousin Lori Anna sing the same song beautifully in Afghanistan – a truly memorable event at which I was also sobbing uncontrollably because I couldn’t stop thinking of my father and the wonderful gift Lori gave our family a couple of years earlier, just ten days before Dad passed away.

I don’t know how I did it, but once the line of cars started moving and with Willie McBride still playing in the background I ordered two coffees and a breakfast sandwich. With sausage.

I wasn’t in the clear yet though – I still had to pay and make a run for it, all without making eye-contact with the cashier at the window. I did my best, but there was no disguising my wrung-out face nor the two piss-holes in the snow that were my eyes just ten minutes earlier.

I was drained when I got to Kelley’s with the loot. We sat down with Mom as I told the story amid their choruses of “Oh no!” and “Oh dear!”. Mom couldn’t remember Willie McBride so I found it on iTunes and we listened to a short, tinny version on my phone. All three of us started crying. We talked about poppies (How are you supposed to dispose of them with reverence? Is it wrong to wear them on your hat instead of over your heart?) and about Lori (Did you know she sang at Beaumont-Hamel and Vimy last week? We miss her!).

We didn’t talk about Dad and we didn’t talk about soldiers or veterans, but it was there. Unspoken but felt, pushing against our silence and our hearts. How strange it is that we do often forget something so big and so painful. And stranger still that we can almost simultaneously forget and always remember that loss.

Ceremony is important. It brings us together and can shape our individual experiences into one elemental emotion and event. Most ceremonies take place with honour guards, flags and crowds, but sometimes ceremony shows up over coffee and a breakfast  sandwich and a sad, haunting song… even alone in a car at a Tim Hortons drive-thru.

(There are many covers of Willie McBride/No Man’s Land, but the one sung by the wonderful Lori Anna Reid, is simply the best. A few others think so as well. Listen to an excerpt of Lori’s Willie McBride below.)

Willie McBride by Lori Anna Reid

De-cluttering and Colouring

I just returned to camp this evening after nine days off at home in Ottawa and I’m exhausted! I’ve never been so busy on my days off.

I had big plans on working on my blog and instead I plunged full steam ahead in de-cluttering my sister’s rec room and then helping her with painting it. Kelley has done a great job in colouring/painting her living room, kitchen, dining room and hallways so I wanted to learn more about it by helping with her basement.

I also helped out my mom in the final push of de-cluttering her bedroom and then putting up some pictures in her room and a few around the house.

These may or may not be the colours we painted Kelley’s basement.

I’ve never seen Mom so excited about her bedroom before. I should have totally done before and after shots – her room looks lovely. And over the years Mom has collected some nice pictures. Too bad we didn’t hang them sooner.

Kelley and I spent a few long days on her basement. When I left all the walls had been painted, and newly painted shelves mounted. Thank goodness Rod was there to hook up the TV and all its many peripherals. I think I would have had better luck solving a Rubik’s cube (and thirty years later I still haven’t solved that one).

I should also mention that I left Kelley’s basement in a mess. I wish I had one more day just to help put everything away and have some fun shopping for the perfect pillows. We figured the right coloured cushions would be just what we needed to pull together all the paint colours and the forest-green ratty sofa. The right cushions and a strategically placed throw can provide fantastic camouflage for an outdated and mismatched couch.

Hmmm… now that I’m looking at these colours, I see some resemblance to a certain blog theme. Oh my. I certainly didn’t do that on purpose.

Good night, and good luck with rest of the rec room Kelley!

Sleep, how I love thee

I’ve just set a new record. It’s my last day at work before heading home for a week and a bit, and I finished by 8:45 pm.

Holy Toledo, I still have time to hit the bar!

But I won’t. Instead I’ve come back to my room to do a little packing, a little sipping (red wine) and little explaining.

While most of the working world asks “Is it Friday yet?”, for eight years I’ve been working with folks who ask “How much time you got left?” or just “How much longer?” like we were prisoners serving a sentence.

I laughed when I first started here in northern Alberta a year ago. Twenty-one days? That’s nothing! Try ninety days or one hundred and fourteen.

Everything is relative of course. I still remember one of our travel coordinators in Kandahar who respectfully listened as one of our colleagues complained about how long he had left before heading back home for his month off.

“Two more months?” said Waqas. “How terrible for you.”

His tone was the perfect combination of polite and what-the-fuck-do-you-know-about-serving-time-you-privileged-twat. I think he still had seven months to go in his eleven month rotation.

So why do we do it? The quickest and most common answer might be money, but for me it’s more than that. It’s having big chunks of time off to do something. It’s unfortunate that it took me until now – when I only get one week off a month –  to have a real goal for my time off. Oh, how I long for the days when I could work for three months and get a whole month off to spend how I please, while earning a whole whack of Aeroplan points in paid travel which always started or terminated with a quick jaunt to Dubai – just long enough to shake out the dust or snow from my shoes.

Somehow making a pit stop at Walmart after landing in Fort Mac just isn’t the same.

Anyway, I do find the twenty-one days here harder. For one thing, no days off. It’s twenty-one days straight, minimum ten hours a day and I almost always work more than that. I could totally do this job for three months in a row if only I could have one day off a week, or at the very least one morning off. I am sooooo looking forward to sleeping in when I get home this time (“I miss you Sleep! I’ll be there soon!”).

And tonight I finished at 8:45. I didn’t get all my work done, not even close. But if I had stayed until midnight it still wouldn’t have gotten done and I’d be toast. Which I pretty much have been my last two weeks here. Between work and the revelation that writing on-line could be a good thing, I’ve had very little downtime. I’m even looking forward to the flight home – and that’s saying something when you’re flying economy on Air Canada, especially when you’ve booked Tango and can’t get your hands on any of those damn status miles! But I digress.

I’m a daydreamer and there are times I’m quite content doing absolutely nothing. Sure sometimes I get restless and want to mingle or maybe stumble into a massage, but my overactive imagination is always there to keep me company. Hmmm… I wonder if it’s time to take a time out?

Still, I’m glad I passed up on the bar. That glass of wine really hit me. I gotta tell ya, that little bed over there within’ arm’s reach looks mighty tempting.

“You come here often?”


It’s still October 30th somewhere, right?

Ok, maybe one of these isn't actually a costume.

Ok, maybe one of these isn’t actually a costume.

My seven days are up. It was one week ago this morning that I kick-started my blog, that I promised once I reached five posts or one week, I would reach out to Susan Murphy and thank her for her post “The Number One Thing Holding You Back from Creating Great Content“.

But I don’t wanna.

I still haven’t figured out why I want to do this. Why would I write what is essentially a diary, and share it with complete strangers, or even worse, with people who know where I live?

I know that part of it is I want to document this journey, this big trip to building a tiny house. I want to write about how hard it’s going to be to let go of most of my stuff, and hopefully how good it’ll feel once I do it.

Part of it is I want to inspire my mom, show her it can be done. Of course she’ll see it first hand, and unless I give her some computer lessons on how the inter-tubes work, she’ll never see this blog. Maybe I’ll start her on Facebook first.

Part of it is the practice of writing. It’s something I find much easier to daydream about than do. I live too much in my head, and writing a blog is exercise and a commitment.

And a big part of it is that I have at least ten shopping-cart-sized boxes of photos, postcards, school reports, military assessments, newsletters, diaries, tickets, teddy bears, newspaper clippings, pins, Girl Guide badges, piggy banks, jewelry boxes, berets and shawls that I really want to hang on to… and let go of. I have so many memories and stories wrapped up in those boxes marked “Treasures” and “Personal”. It’s time to let go of all that stuff, and I figure if I can write that I was there, I did that, I failed, I survived, those were my people and I loved them, if I can attach those memories and feelings to words rather than things, then maybe I’ll be ready to let go.

And buy some more stuff (kidding!).

Speaking of stuff, I would like to take this moment to congratulate myself on not buying a Halloween costume this year. I was in Fort McMurray twice last week and both times I resisted buying a costume. Ok, one time I resisted and the other time the line up was too long. Still, when you consider how many costumes I got my hands on in Kandahar, this is quite a feat for me.

Despite my penchant for dressing as an elf/devil/ghostbuster on a military base with 30,000 soldiers, I am nervous about exposing myself on this blog – sure that’s normal. As was spending two hours after work this evening scrolling through page after page of vectors in search of the perfect paisley background and vintage tags on which to write my non-existent blog categories. Yep, 100% typical of what I would do when I don’t want to do what I should do… which is this; posting my fifth blog post and making a connection.

Get ‘er done.

(Thanks Susan!)

Three Things

Three things I learned before 6:37 this morning:

  1. Putting on make-up takes a lot longer when I’m thinking about what to write about in my blog.
  2. I see waaaay more people in the hallways and dining hall when I make it to breakfast by 6:10.
  3. Although getting dressed and going to breakfast a whole hour earlier than usual means my morning is more social, it also means I will have very little time to write my blog post and it will in no way resemble what I had imagined writing while staring at my tube of under-eye concealer at 5:15.


Fighting the fuzz

(The entry below is what I was working on when my laptop kicked me out two days ago.)

My blog folder should be around here somewhere.

It’s five am and I am filled with clutter.

My desk, my desktop, my brain – all filled with clutter. Apparently so too is my laptop, as the words on this screen are appearing a good four seconds after I type them.

Five am sounds pretty dedicated right? Well, I was actually up at 4:30. This is how long it took me to scurry to the bathroom, clear some crap off my desk, boot up my computer, take a screen shot of my cluttered desktop and open up Word.

Uh oh – “High Disk Usage” warning. And all I’m doing is typing.

My life is full of clutter. I gave up my apartment in 2009 so you’d think I’d be the epitome of clutter-free. I’ve been living in small places on and off for seven years overseas, and if there’s one thing I’ve discovered (besides that I’m comfortable in small places) it’s that I sure can cram a lot of stuff in 8’x10’ or less.

My brain was chock-full of clutter yesterday. And not just clutter, but fuzzy clutter. The kind of jumbled mess you get when you wake up at one in the morning and don’t get back to sleep before work. Actually it can go either way with me – sometimes when I get no sleep for a few days in a row, all that I’m able to manage is a single thought at a time, and that kind of clarity once led to one of the most productive and decisive days I’ve ever had at work… but that was 2006 or 2007. These days lack of sleep leads to fuzzy brain and too much time staring into space, meandering through my head when I’m supposed to be stamping and stacking and punching paper.

Yesterday my brain was so muddled and sleepy I asked the guys if there’s anything they needed done outside that I could do. Sure thing – insulating pipe!

So yesterday afternoon I tramped about in snow and mud and taped silver puffy  insulation sheets around sewer lines. Or grey water lines. I’m not sure, but they were pipes and hoses and it took me two hours tape up maybe 30 feet of snakey two-and-four inch pipes and hoses all by myself. I got dirt under my nails, mud on my knees and all over the cuffs of my jeans, my fingers got numb and my nose wouldn’t stop running.

I felt good.

I must admit I am pretty lucky. A year ago I would have stayed at my desk, checked work e-mails, checked my personal e-mails, maybe sneak a peak at facebook on my phone, made coffee, answered some e-mails and generally not get anything done except the most immediate and superficial tasks because I was too tired to think.

Now the guys will take me along to insulate pipe, or nail rolls of non-skid flooring on walkways or change out furnace filters and wipe down hot water tanks. They’ve also offered to let me snake a clogged toilet, but I haven’t gotten to that yet.

In fairness the guys have offered to show me how things run and are done on the camp, but I’ve always been too busy trying to catch up on the mounds of paperwork piling up around me. I always felt guilty to be doing anything other than what I was hired for.

The difference this year is that I put in my notice and told my boss I no longer want to spend ten hours a day in front of a computer. I gave three months notice so that they could bring a new person I could train and then catch up on all the work that that is simply too much for one person to do. I gave January 2nd as my last day, but offered to stay on another six months if I could train and work as a maintenance technician.

A maint tech knows a little bit about everything, and a lot about a few things. They can fix a washer that won’t spin, a door that won’t lock, and a bathroom fan that won’t shut off. Depending on their background and experience they might also be able to troubleshoot a broken A/C unit or walk-in cooler. They sometimes complete jobs normally done by a ticketed plumber, electrician, carpenter or HVAC tech – they just don’t have the formal education or red seal to say they’re qualified to do it. They’re a jack of all trades, learn as they go, and know more about how these camps run than any single tradesperson.

I don’t know how long the company will keep me on after January. I have a good boss though and if he can keep me on as a maint tech-in-training, I know that he will. We certainly have enough work, but it’s really a matter of numbers and if the company has the budget for it.

I still have too much paperwork to process, but the difference now is that I know I only have a limited amount of time learn new skills that I may never have a chance to learn again. There is so much I could learn from these guys, and if I don’t make the time to learn, no one else will.

And sometimes finishing a job in the snow and mud is exactly what you need before tackling another mountain of paper.

Or a cluttered desktop.

You could have just asked

Thank you Windows.

Thank you for installing that update as I was writing my blog, already at 500 and something words. Thank you for that shock of watching my 500-and-something-words disappear without my asking and shutting down my laptop that took way too damn long to start in the first place. Thanks for giving me time to make my bed and haul on some clothes as you rebooted.

If I had known that my computer would have forced a shutdown at 5:35 am, maybe I would have gotten more done. I may have forced myself to finish my 500-and-something-words instead of writing until the very last possible minute when all I have time to do before running to brekkie (ok, forget brekkie, it would have been just coffee) and hitching a ride with the guys to work (it’s too dark and cold for me now to walk that kilometer to our office; I like to be able to see the bears and wolves and coyotes coming to get me) is haul on a hat and mascara. If I had known my computer was going to kick me off, maybe I would have been more productive.

Hmmmm. I bet there’s an app for that.

I just heard of Freedom a few days ago. It locks you out of the internet for however long you tell it to. And it won’t let you on no matter what… unless you reboot your computer. It’s completely ridiculous and would totally work for me.

There must be a forced-shutdown-so-get-er-done program. I mean other than using will power and self control.

But if there isn’t, I want first dibs.

Afghanistan to Alberta in 1500 Words

“As soon as I figure out how to add a banner image to my WordPress site, I’ll definitely start posting!”

That’s from, Susan Murphy’s post “The Number One Thing Holding You Back From Creating Great Content“.

It was also my personal wake-up call at 4:30 this morning, because that’s exactly the excuse I used when I first setup a WordPress blog in 2009 while I was working in Afghanistan. I made exactly one entry which read something like “I wonder if anyone is going to read this,” and was never heard from again.

I thought blogging while I worked overseas would be a great idea. Lots of people would be interested in everyday life as a contractor in Kandahar. I was working in a part of the world most people back home only hear about on the news, so of course people would just be flocking to my posts.

Uh huh.

I had all sorts of reasons for not actually writing – too busy, too hard, could get into trouble for saying too much, but mostly – I wanted my blog to look JUST RIGHT. I spent a few hours working on a logo, but could never quite figure out how to upload it as a banner. Once in a while I would check back – yep , JudyOnTheGo is still there – and then get back to being busy again.

I worked in KAF (Kandahar Airfield) for four years. During my last six months there I was starting a new and interesting job (logistic support for unmanned aircraft), working on my second course towards my Masters in Education, volunteering one or two evenings a week teaching English to soldiers and contractors, coordinating volunteers for a small school on base which was open to Afghan boys on Saturdays and doing cross-fit training five days a week. I had a great roomie, my own little pink motorcycle which I adored driving and a good group of friends who always had something fun on the go.

But once the Canadian Forces left Kandahar, so did the funding for my position. I didn’t want to go. I was very fortunate that in the same phone call I lost my job I was also offered a new one in Canada. I did some scrambling looking for another position on base, and was lucky to stay on another six weeks as a security officer, but at almost half the pay and half the time off, I knew it was time to head back home.

I returned to Canada in September 2011. And ten days later I started working in northern Alberta.

Accommodation camps for oil field workers have a few things in common with Kandahar Airfield; men outnumber women about 10 to 1, we live in little containers outfitted to sleep in, we eat in cafeterias and we count down the days until we can go home. There are differences of course; the men and women here aren’t armed, no one has to share their sleeping quarters with a roomie, the food is better and I only count down 21 days before I go home instead of 90+. Oh, and no rocket attacks.

Sounds pretty good right?

I am very grateful for not having to deal with rockets (although I do still flinch when I hear almost any alarm), but I still missed my KAF life.

I dove into my new job which meant spending 10+ hours a day in front of a computer. Then I’d inhale supper and try to keep up on my readings and assignments for my third course. Maybe things would have turned out differently had that particular course not been about research… but I suspect not. I had real difficulty in not just understanding the articles, but in caring about them. I just didn’t care. Seriously, what was the point? I was in the middle of fucking oil fields – who or what was I going to teach? After ten or twelve hours working on a computer the last thing I wanted to do was online research.

Everything frustrated me. My research course, the workers bitching about having to go outside to get to the chow hall (awww, muffin), not having friends to hang out with after work, the guy eating a sandwich while on a stationary bike. All of it had me screaming on the inside. By the new year I dropped my course, quit the gym, ate lots of delicious desserts and in six months gained fifteen pounds. Maybe eighteen.

I tried to find things to look forward to. In May I talked my sister into going to Cuba with me for a week which was mostly nice (there’s a reason why most visitors stick to the pool in May – jellyfish season). In July I travelled to Texas as my Brit former-roomie married her Texan honey-bun (sometimes these overseas romances do work out!) for an emotional but enjoyable reunion with some of my KAF friends.

And in September 2012 I came back to work… and couldn’t figure out how I was going to do this job another three weeks. Was this all I had to look forward to? Entering data, printing paper, stamping paper, punching paper, mailing paper, passing out paper?

It was a rough couple of days and I didn’t get much sleep. I didn’t get much done either. I was a zombie. Could I just quit? Could I just walk away from a decent paying job and eleven years with this company? I don’t have anything lined up back in Ottawa, not even an apartment. I know Mom would be thrilled to have me stay (really, she would), but could I handle that much time at home? Seriously, 41 years-old and living with my mother? Oh God, I really don’t want another 9 to 5 job and an apartment to furnish and bills to pay and bus rides to work filled with people just counting down to the weekend. How am I ever going to save enough money to build on the land Dad left us in Newfoundland if I’m paying rent again? If only I knew how to build a house. A tiny little house just to get me started or maybe to give to Mom. She might be happier on the Island. If only I could build a tiny little house…

If only.

And somewhere between Day-2 and Day-3 of my 21-day rotation, in my dreadful zombiefied state I decided to learn how to build a small house. And not just any small house. A tiny house on wheels. A House-to-Go from Tumbleweed Houses.

See that? House-to-go. Judy on the go.

That’s Karma baby. Or destiny. Ok, it’s something.

Unfortunately when I went looking for my deserted WordPress blog, there was no trace of it. I guess after three years of neglect JudyOnTheGo slinked off to that place abandoned blogs go to die. Or the automatic renewal for my account didn’t work because of the $1800 worth of fraudulent charges on my credit card.

No more blog. Oh well.

I didn’t really give it much more thought I until I followed a link on facebook two days ago to and her post “How to Stop Being Too Busy’’. Hmmmm. Well. I see. Maybe she has a point.

And around 4:30 this morning when I still couldn’t get back to sleep I checked out Suze’s blog again and BAM!

As soon as I figure out how to add a banner image to my WordPress site, I’ll definitely start posting!

Well, FINE.

The real reason I didn’t write my blog in 2009 was fear. Perfection is just an excuse and an enemy to creativity.

Point. Taken.

I have to get up in an hour anyway so let’s get ‘er done!

I almost got trapped when I started looking for that perfect theme.

Oh no you don’t!

I picked a free one and vowed I wouldn’t tinker with it until I had ten posts. Well, except that colour has to go. And I wonder where I could find a nice polka-dot background. Or maybe some paisley…

There’s lots more to write – what happened after I gave my notice at work, who I’ve enlisted to help me build this tiny home, and all the work I’m going to have to do (and what I’ve already done) to learn to live with less.

But for now, I just wanted to say thank-you Susan. Karma, coincidence – I don’t know – but your posts couldn’t have come at a better time. And by the way, I’m not going to let you see this for a week or until I have five posts – whichever comes first.



p.s. Has anyone else noticed a proliferation of BAM!s on the net? Overused perhaps?

p.p.s. If you’re looking for a good, funny blog about Kandahar Airfield (and who isn’t?) I highly recommend the irreverent and sometimes raunchy “Just DFACS Ma’am”. DFACs is short for Dining Facilities and it’s what we call the cafeterias in KAF. The title is a play on “Just the facts Ma’am” and the cheeky M. does a great job of dishing on the chow being served up to 30,000 KAF diners… with a few staff misadventures thrown in. It’s funny stuff, especially if you’ve ever been there or know someone who has. And I’m not just saying that because I used to work for M. and he might be looking for a replacement if my former roomie gets knocked up. Seriously. Funny stuff.