I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Friday is here and I am excited about Rob and Ashleigh arriving today.

Shonah and Moriah, the daughter of my friend who I am staying with, are having a jewelry and purse party tonight at the house here. Moriah makes jewelry, and Shonah has my sewing machine and serger and has made a lot of purses and laptop bags. So Rob and Ashleigh are going to come over with her and the three of us will use the pool and I will order pizza for dinner while Shonah is inside selling her wares. I am really looking forward to it.

I spend most of the day reading the manuscript for a book my friend Loralee wrote. She wants my feedback on the story and her writing. She told me the plot of the story a week ago. She has had problems finding an agent to represent her as they just aren't interested in new authors while there is a recession. Publishers are sticking with established writers. I told her that I thought she might have a better chance if it was a screenplay; that I knew of several producers who were always looking for scripts that feature young people and her story is about a teenage girl. So we have decided to work together to turn it into a script. I get about a quarter of the way through before I have to stop because my head is starting to ache.

Shonah arrives with Ashleigh and Rob just after five. Ashleigh hasn't seen Donna and her kids for years and so she is shocked when she sees the girls and how grown up they are. They spend a bit of time getting caught up but people are arriving for the sale so the three of us head outside to the backyard and spend the next hour floating around the pool, having fun and talking. I am blissfully happy.

We order pizza and when it arrives, Shonah joins us as she hasn't had any dinner. The sun is going down behind the trees and the shade and breeze finally starts to give us some relief from the heat. It has been so hot the past few days that the pool is now a comfortable 78 degrees. Ashleigh comments on how much she loves the Okanagan and the weather here. I tell Rob, "One of my favourite experiences here is when you go to see a movie and when you come out of the theater, it's twilight and your skin is cool from the air conditioning inside but the air is warm and you can feel the heat of the day rising from the pavement. I love that feeling."

Shonah bops in and out of the house, keeping an eye on the sale of her bags, but wanting to be with us and visit. Eventually it grows darker and we head inside. The sale is pretty much over. Shonah sold 3 bags and Moriah has sold a lot of her jewelry. Shonah made $75 but Moriah made almost $400. Shonah is happy though. When she started out making bags, she didn't intend to sell them. She just made them because she liked bags but then realized that there was no way she could use them all. She said she has recouped her costs for fabric. Later she will have friends who heard about her bags and will contact her to buy more.

They leave at about 9 and Ashleigh reminds me to transfer season 5 of Lost from my external hard drive onto my laptop so I can put it on their external hard drive tomorrow. She can't wait to watch it.

Saturday I am up at 7 because they are coming to pick me up at 8 so we can hit the garage sales early.

At 8 there is no sign of them so I call Shonah and she tells me that they are on their way. The arrive shortly after and when I open the door to the knock, Shonah is there. She tells me that Ashleigh isn't feeling very well but not to make a big deal of it. Rob comes up behind her and he has a bag of DVD's for me - all the seasons of Magnum P.I. that I had left with them and had asked for them to bring. He also has his hard drive so we go to my room and plug it into my computer and start the transfer. As I am setting it up I ask Rob what is wrong with Ashleigh and he tells me she was restless all night, feeling sick and finally threw up. She is feeling achy all over and still feels nauseated.

When I get out to the car, I can see Ashleigh is not well at all. Even through her tan she looks pale and her perpetual smile and sunny disposition are replaced with a strained look and few words. But she really wants to try to keep up with the days plans and has an ice cream pail on her lap just in case. I tell her it takes me back to when she was little, she always got car sick on road trips so the ice cream pail was a permanent fixture in our mini van. She gives me a wan smile.

We get going and Shonah has a list of garage sales she found in the classifieds. We hit the first one and I buy a small cooler for the beach; a Coleman for $2. The one I have used for the past 25 years is in storage. I tell Rob that when I get it again, they can have this one. Shonah buys a small backpack that has all the dishes and utensils for a picnic secured in special pockets, and a stool that has a cooler bag underneath that also contains picnic dishes and utensils for one - all for $5. This is a great start to our day. We hit sale after sale and it seems everyone has the attitude of " eh - we just want it gone. Give me a dollar." and so we score bargain after bargain. Ashleigh and Rob get; a small red folding table for their deck for $2, BLOND shampoo and serum for $1.75, 8 LP albums for $15, a small electric fan for .50c, some kids books for Ashleigh's preschool for .25c each, electric beaters (I don't know what she paid), and other stuff I don't recall. Shonah, besides her picnic stuff, got an underwater Minolta camera for $5, lip gloss and mascara for $1 (all brand new in the box), a brand new wallet for $1. and some lovely cushion covers for $2. Besides the cooler, I got an electric fan for .50c, a set of silver plated, very ornate petite four tongs for .25c, and a pair of Robeez for $2. (Ashleigh wanted to buy them but didn't want to freak Rob out so asked me to get them and keep them for her) - they sell for $30 so a great steal, they look like they are brand new. Ashleigh can only walk around for about 15 minutes at a time, then she has to go back to the car to wait for us.

Around 10 o'clock we decide to stop going to garage sales, the small trunk of Shonah's car is almost as full as we can get it, and go to the grocery store to get some things for our picnic. Shonah has brought some cooked chicken, iced tea, and veggies. I brought some crackers and cookies. We buy some cheese, more drinks, some bread and some dip. Rob tries to pay for it all but I won't hear of it and force a $20 into his hand. We cram all of the groceries into the back of the car. We got some ginger ale for Ashleigh who still feels very ill. She takes some more Pepto Bismal and sips on the ginger ale and tries to eat a bit of bread. We drive over the bridge to the west side where Green Bay Bible Camp is.

It's a gorgeous day. The sun is turning the waters of Okanagan lake into a carpet of dazzling diamonds. There isn't a cloud in the sky and there isn't much traffic on the roads. We get to the camp in record time and the girls wax very nostalgic as we pull into the road that leads into the grounds. The properties on either side of the camp used to be campgrounds for tenters and motor homes. Both have been sold since the girls worked at the camp and now there is a subdivision of multi million dollar homes on the left and a condominium complex on the right. The horses that grazed in the field for as long as I can remember are gone. The buildings on either side of the camp can be seen over the fence to the left and through the trees to the right and,as far as we are concerned, the ambiance of the camp has been destroyed. I comment on how the camp that I used to attend as a teen, just behind us up the mountain, has since been surrounded by a subdivision and thus you don't feel like you are away from it all anymore. The area is now called Glenrosa and all it is is houses the entire way up the mountain. I haven't gone back in years, and don't want to.

We spend only half an hour walking around the camp and down to the beach as the girls point out places to Rob that mean something to them. They both worked here, at different times. They were trained as counselors, first as LITES then SLUGS (both acronyms - Leaders In Training, and Student Leader Under God). Then Ashleigh worked for pay for two years as a counselor and life guard. Shonah worked her way up over 5 years from counselor to Program Director for pay. She loves this place and had given serious thought in the spring to taking the summer off work this year to come back as a director again.

We drive up the hill to Mission Hill Vineyards and through the huge wooden gates onto the lush green property. "It feels like we are driving into Jurassic Park." I say and start to hum the theme tune and we all laugh. We find parking and walk up to the buildings. The place is huge and it feels like we are far away from the Okanagan and in Tuscany. The walls are a soft peach stucco and roofs are red tile. There is a huge archway leading into the main compound and the view of the lake is framed with an outdoor restaurant on the left and a trellised walkway on the right. In front of us is a large grassy area that leads to an amphitheater that has been sculpted out of the hill and grassed in. In the summer they have presentations of music and Shakespeare plays. I would love to attend one sometime. It must be fabulous to be here in the cooling heat of the day as the sun lowers and turns the lake and sky into shades of lavender and pink.

Ashleigh is needing to find shade and sit. We walk over to an area that has some tables and chairs and a small fountain. We sit there as Shonah goes to find out if we can move our tour ahead an hour from 3:30 as we are way ahead in our schedule. We have just found out that we aren't allowed to picnic on the grounds. Shonah is disappointed. She tells us that the vineyards in Vernon welcome picnics and she thought it would be the same here. She comes back and tells us that we can't move the tour earlier as they are all booked up. We decide to drive down to the lake and have our picnic there.

We find a table in the shade at a small picnic area right on the sand and set up the food we brought. Ashleigh just lays her head down on the table and doesn't want to eat. We are subdued as the three of us eat our lunch. It is unfortunate that Ashleigh is so sick and it takes the fun out of the day as we are all concerned for her. We try to have some conversation but mostly just eat in silence. As we are almost finished, Ashleigh is feeling much worse and says she is going to throw up. Shonah runs to the car for the ice cream pail and Ashleigh sits down under a tree. Rob sits with her and Shonah returns with the pail in the nick of time. I take a towel down to the water and wet one end of it. I bring it back and dab at Ashleigh's forehead. When she was a little girl and was sick to her stomach I would hold a cold wet face cloth to her forehead and I remember her telling me years later how much she loved that. She is done with the pail so I take it down to the lake to wash it out and when I come back, she has the towel wrapped around her neck to cool down. Shonah and I pack the picnic back up and get everything into the car.

Ashleigh asks if there is time to take her back home and then make it back for the tour. We all say to forget the tour, we will just call it a day and get her into bed. She feels really bad and wants us to keep on with the day but we won't hear of it. I offer to have her come back to my place and sleep in my bed because the house is air conditioned, and then Rob and Shonah can use the pool - and so can Ashleigh if she thinks it will help her cool off. But she decides that she just wants to go back to Shonah's and try to sleep before the bar-b-que and that she doesn't want to have to move again once she is settled. So it is decided that they will drop me off at home and then continue to Shonah's.

I am disappointed that my short amount of time with them has been cut even shorter now, but it can't be helped and I don't say a word about how I am feeling. We get to my place and I give Ashleigh a hug and kiss and tell her that I hope she is feeling better soon and that I am sorry her time was spoiled. She lets me stroke her hair and kiss the top of her head without pulling away. It seems lately that I have to be careful how much affection I show her as she is trying to redefine our relationship now she is a married woman. But being ill has broken that down and I have been a little taken aback at how she has let me mother her - spooning Pepto into her mouth after she threw up, dabbing her head and face with the towel, and now this. It warms my heart.

Rob comes into the house with me to get his hard drive and I walk him back outside. We hug and he tells me that they will come back some time this summer and spend more time with me. I tell him I would love that. I go back to the car and Ashleigh opens her door so I walk to her. "Mom, I keep forgetting to tell you this but you are looking so good." she says. "Awe, thank you." I say back. "Have you lost more weight?" "I don't know, I hope so." I say. "I can tell you have," she says, "You look great." I kiss her again and she closes the door and they drive off, waving goodbye.

I walk to the house but I have to stop at the door. My eyes are full of tears and there are people in there buying more jewelry from Moriah. I am not sure why I am crying, I think because I am not going to see them again for a long time, but then again I seem to cry easily these days. I don't want to look like an idiot. I pull myself together and go inside. Donna is in the kitchen with Barb, a woman I knew when I lived here back in the 90's and haven't seen since. We hug and get reacquainted. Soon they leave and I go up to my room. I just want to sit down and have a good cry but I don't. I change into a bathing suit and cover-up and take a book and go out to the pool. I sit and read a while and then take a quick dip to cool off. As I sit back down and read, I start to smell something burning in the air. I look up and I can see that the clouds are tinged with brown. Something is on fire.

An hour or so later, I go in the house and Donna tells me that Glenrosa is on fire. That is the subdivision that surrounds my old camp. We watch the news and learn that the whole mountain has been evacuated and that the fire is now 50 hectares big. As the night progresses, the fire jumps the highway and now the evacuations have started right down to the lake. Then we hear of another fire on this side of the lake just west of the airport. Later we hear of yet another one farther down the lake. It reminds us of the huge fires of 2003 where almost 300 homes were lost and thousands of hectares burned. I was here when that happened and it was like being in Dante's 7th circle of hell. I remember at night how the whole sky was red. The fire was so fierce that it started it's own weather system. I remember walking out to my car and it was covered in ash and branches of grey pine needles that, when I touched them, dissolved into a pile of ash. We are all hoping this fire doesn't grow that large.

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