Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wide, Open Spaces!

The current view from the dining room toward the main entrance.
I've started drafting this update at least five times, but then Steve would keep working and I'd decide to wait for the next phase. He's finally taking a day off, so I can share the latest (exciting) phase of the main-floor renovation.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Renovation Update

Steve replacing the ceiling tile he had to remove in order to adjust ducts and wiring.
Mouldings and railings will be coming soon.

Although I haven't blogged about it, we have made big progress on the renovation of our Almonte house. And by "we", I mean Stephen who has been working an average of four hours a day (most days) on this project.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Let the demolition begin!

The current view of our kitchen, with a door and a staircase
chopping a huge chunk out of it.

Since we moved to the new house this past summer, we've been chipping away at relatively small projects, like installing cabinets in the dining room to supplement the lack of kitchen storage.

Because of all the walls in the way, the only way I can get
a picture of the dining room is through a slit of doorway.

We also had to remove a wall in the kitchen to make room for a larger fridge. And by "we" I mean Stephen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How to Survive a Sexual Predator Attack

Note: this post is adapted from "How to Survive a Bear Attack" on the blog The Art of Manliness. It seems to me that if we can share strategies for surviving attacks from bears, we can share tips for keeping each other safe from other bipedal predators.

How to Survive a Bear Sexual Predator Attack

According to Stephen Colbert, bears Sexual predators are the number one threat to America women today. Sure, bears sexual predators look cute when they’re rummaging through a garbage can looking for food holding a cocktail and chatting about social justice, but don’t let their cuteness lull you into carnal security. Sexual predators are “godless killing  sexual objectification machines.”

While bear attacks are rare, a man should always be prepared for a bear attack. You never know when you’ll need this information.

Bearing in mind that sexual harassment and assault are distressingly common, a woman should always be prepared for an attack. You never know when you’ll need this information.

[I'm going to stop doing the strike-throughs now; you get the idea.]

[I was going to adapt the bear-survival strategies from the original post, as it would be humorous, but I just can't. Instead, I'm sharing some strategies that most women use to improve their chances of safety. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments. I want to be perfectly clear that sexual harassment and assault are IN NO WAY the victim's fault or responsibility. These strategies are offered only in the hopes of preventing further victimization.] 

How you handle a sexual predator attack depends, to some extent, on the type of assailant you encounter — acquaintance or stranger. So the first step in surviving a sexual assault is to know what you’re up against. 

Sexual Predator Dossier

Sexual assault by an acquaintance is by far more common than stranger assault.
  • Appearance: As with the stranger predator, acquaintance predators come in all shapes, sizes, and
    Image from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)
    colours. You simply cannot tell by looking at a person if he will become sexually aggresssive. They may be friends, relatives, coaches, or colleagues. Because the assailant is known to us and we feel safe in their company, it often becomes problematic for women to assign culpability to the predator, feeling that they themselves were somehow complicit.

    My own mother told me I was "playing with fire" when I went on a date at a remote location when my boyfriend's parents were out of town. How could I then tell her that he had pressured me (I was saved by a chimney flue that backed up) without getting an I-told-you-so?
  • Hands: Predator hands are fast-moving. They can often touch private areas of your body without warning, even in public. In middle school, a classmate ran his hand up my calf with no shame or compunction, while watching my face. As my eyes bulged and I jerked away, he said, "Oh, you love it," a phrase that gets my goat to this very day. (I suspect he was enjoying my shock.)
  • Location: Acquaintance predators are mostly found in places where a woman or girl would ordinarily feel safe and protected: at work, on a date, at home, at a friend's house, in a group setting, at a park. A public assault, as happened to me with my grandfather, obliges the victim to be quiet in order not to break social protocol. When he finally removed his hand, I swung on the swingset while I calmed myself and figured out what to do next. Not once did "Call for help" occur to me as a next step.
  • Behaviour: Assailant focuses obsessively on a woman's physical attributes, minimizes her other values (e.g., intellect, humour, strength). Manipulates a social situation so that a woman can be harassed or assaulted. Please note that acquaintance assault does not mean that the assault may not become violent. Date rape or spousal rape is an example of increasing predatory behaviour that can end very aggressively. And (disgraced former Colonel) Russ Williams has shown that acquaintance assault can even end in torture and murder.

How to Survive an Acquaintance Assault Attack

The following notes are drawn from personal experience and from accounts of other survivors.

  1. Be aware when it is happening. It is easy to dismiss the flattery of men who find a woman attractive. We have been raised to feel that beauty is our greatest asset. And, in a consensual romantic relationship, we do want that. But it is important recognize that it is not appropriate for every relationship in our lives. Sometimes an inappropriate comment can alert you to a predator who is willing to cross boundaries. For example, a short while before he assaulted me, a prepubescent granddaughter, my grandfather had commented about a woman we saw as, "Now there's a fine figure of a woman!" I now know that this was a completely inappropriate thing for him to have said; I didn't then.

  2. Speak up. Practice saying, "Hey, that's not cool" and then explain just exactly what is not cool in the person's behaviour (e.g., calling me sweetheart, or touching my shoulder.) Because you are a woman, you will have to do so in a self-deprecating way: "I'm just not comfortable with it." Say it when someone crosses your personal comfort zone. (And this is different for each of us.) There is no assurance that speaking up will ensure your safety, but there is a better chance of stopping things escalating, and it prepares you to become more assertive in your self-defence. Also, sadly, if you ever end up making a complaint (to HR or police), it will be important to be able to point out that you signaled your non-acquiescence.

    Full disclosure: I have mostly failed to speak up – it's really hard! But my grandfather did not stop his assault until I told him he was hurting me. Still, I did not talk about it to anyone (family or friends) for many, many years.
  3. Look for allies. You may notice bystanders who are aware of the situation. Align yourselves with them, even physically. Put them between you and the predator. Talk to them about what has happened or is happening. Again, this will be important for confirming that the incident(s) happened.
  4. Get physical. If the predatory behaviour progresses from subtle to invasive, be prepared to defend yourself. Slap their hands, push them off of you. Yell. If you've taken self-defense classes, use those skills. Women have been socialized to repress our anger (passive-aggressiveness notwithstanding), but it is a valid emotion when you are in a dangerous situation. Full disclosure (again): I have not had great success with this. I kept trying to push a date's hands away from where I didn't want them. It changed nothing; he kept going until he was satisfied.
  5. Seek a safe place as soon as possible. When sexual assault (or harassment) happens, you may feel that there is no safe place, but please know that you are not alone – far from it – so reach out to your network of safe people and get there as soon as possible. 
You can find more information about prevention at RAINN (mostly focused on campus safety.)

Stranger Predator Dossier

Appearance: If Paul Bernardo and Ted Bundy taught us anything, it is that sexual predators can be
Ted Bundy, a good-looking, intelligent guy. Credit:
good-looking, friendly, charming. It would be much easier if these predators all looked like Freddy Krueger.

Hands: Stranger predators will often wait until they have you isolated before they make their attack.

Location: Strangers will often seek to get you to a secluded place, away from your friends or the public. When I was very young (pre-school), I got separated from my mother in a department store. As I stood crying, a saleswoman and a man both approached me. The man insisted that he wanted to take me for an ice cream and look for my mother. Fortunately, the saleswoman took charge and told the man that he could bring the ice cream to the management office. I was very disappointed when he hadn't shown up before my mother found me.

Behaviour: Seeks out vulnerable girls or women, isolates them, and assaults them. Are often opportunistic and, though they will have plans or even tools ready, they may simply lie in wait for their prey to fall into a trap.

How to Survive an Attack from a Stranger Predator

The following are all easier to write than to do, so please don't feel blameworthy if you miss them.
  1. Trust your guts. In Cheryl Strayed's memoir, Wild, she tells about an incident where two men harassed her, giving her a creepy feeling. She tells of quickly breaking camp and moving on when she felt at risk. Smart move. Once, coming home from a late shift at work, I had to cross a small intersection where a man was just standing at the corner. My apartment was next to a store parking lot (the store was closed at this hour). Instead of continuing, I turned around and walked to the nearest open business: a convenience store. To my relief, there was a police car parked out front. I explained to the officer what my concern was. He drove me home (only two blocks). When we passed the corner, the man was no longer there, and the officer told me that was a commuter bus stop for the late shift at a local factory. He said it in a tone of voice that made me feel like I was over-reacting, but I remain unapologetic: I was safe.
  2. Get somewhere safe immediately. When my mother was a young girl, a car started shadowing her one evening. My mother simply walked into the nearest house with lights on as if it were her own home.
  3. Go with a friend; watch out for each other. Watch each other's drinks, be aware of where your friend is and who she is with. Don't be embarrassed if you ask for an escort to your car or your home. It hasn't happened often, but I have had no shame in asking if a male colleague would escort me to my car if I've worked late.
  4. Fight back; or don't. Physical resistance may help, or it may actually fuel the fire if your assailant is a sexual sadist, like Russ Williams. 


Ugh. Writing this has dredged up so many memories, they are like a strand of malformed pearls. And I feel like anything I can offer is completely inadequate.

I have written this only in part to help educate women.

I have written it so that men (or those who have never experienced this) can get a glimpse of the many ways we are victimized, how frequent it is (consider that each of those "#metoo's represents multiple incidents), and what strategies we take to protect ourselves. And still, we often lose our struggle.

So when we do stand up and say, "This happened, and it is wrong," please believe us.

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Our bedroom: air mattress, bins, and suitcases

Contrary to what I wrote in my last post about our move, we decided to postpone our movers and to leave our house looking "lived in." After my post, we received several cautionary messages and phone calls about the risks of showing an empty house.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Turbulent Waters

If you use a slow enough shutter speed, a photo of rushing water will look like a smooth wave of silk. It is a technique used in many inspirational serenity-type photos and paintings. But they lie.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sell, dammit!

I swear, our house has never been more beautiful. Every surface is painted, swept, or wiped. The gardens are putting on a show. And yet ... it still hasn't sold.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The existing kitchen at the new house.
Getting our current house ready to sell is a seemingly endless task. As soon as we tidy/freshen one thing, we notice something else that isn't quite tip-top condition. It's easy to feel discouraged, so I've started fantasizing about our new house.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

1, 2, 3 GO!

It's real.
When we put in the offer of our new house in Almonte, we planned to have a period where we would own both houses, so we could do a door-to-door move – live in our current house while we make renovations at the new house. In fact, we didn't even want to list our house for sale until we could move into the Almonte house. It was a simple question of "bridge financing" to tie us over until the current house sells.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Next Stop: Almonte

The back of the house, viewed from the park.
In fall 2016, on our way back from a road-trip, Stephen and I decided to start looking for a rural property. We wanted waterfront. We wanted to build our own compact, energy-efficient home. And we wanted to be mortgage-free.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Winkie's Way: There's no Time Like the Present

If you've followed this blog for a while, then you have heard of my beloved Aunt Winkie.

Over the past few weeks, I've reflected on the many things I've learned from Winkie, not by any direct instruction, but simply by example and observation. I've decided to start sharing them with you.

There's no time like the present.

Winkie welcomes help in her tiny kitchen, but I keep my support to the sous-chef role: slicing, dicing, fetching, stirring. Once, as I grabbed utensils to set the table, she noticed that there were crumbs in the cutlery tray. (We all have those, right? It just never ends.) I grabbed what I needed and was ready to close the drawer when she stopped me.

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