Kansas

Sometimes I feel like Dorothy. Yesterday, I learned that Flynn’s Irish Pub in Penetanguishene becomes Uncle Flynn’s Daycare during business hours.

Huh?

When I hear about stuff like that, I can help but think “Mikaela, you’re not in Toronto anymore.” I’m actually in Kansas. Or what most Torontonians think of as the equivalent of Kansas: Ontario farm country.

Here are two other examples.

1) The other day I asked a colleague from Elmvale where I could drop off my dry cleaning in town. The answer surprised me.

“The gun shop,” she said.

“!??,” I said with my face.

A quick call to her husband, a local tradesman, confirmed it. Watson’s Sports is where you go to get your clothes dry cleaned in my town. While you’re dropping off your silk shirts, you can also pick up a new Ruger and some Hula Poppers. Amazing.

That night I – the pacifist vegetarian – stood in front of the gun shop on Queen Street East with an armload of dirty officewear, looking for some sign that they cleaned clothes.

My eyes found a barely legible, tucked away old placard that either said “French cry leaners” or “French’s dry cleaners.”  I hoped it was the latter and went in.

A man stared me down as I dumped my blouses and trousers on the glass counter – right on top of the ammo. He didn’t offer to help me. Didn’t even bat an eye.

“Do you take dry cleaning?” I asked.

“Yes we do,” he volunteered.

“…?” I said with my face. “I’d like to get these cleaned. How long will it take?”

“Two weeks,” he replied as he slowly moved to fill out a receipt.

I tried not to look shocked (two weeks!?) and walked around the store. I’m pretty sure there was a mounted stuffed dear head behind a rack of camouflage coats. Pray for my favourite blazer.

2) This past weekend was the Elmvale Fall Fair, in all its carnivalesque glory. There are so many reasons to love this event.

For starters, all of the moms and dads with kids at local schools take a day off work to watch their children march in the Friday afternoon parade. Apparently it lasts all of 15 minutes. That, friends, is community.

Then there’s the Saturday afternoon parade, which features pretty much all non-school-aged Elmvalers – everyone from grannies on scooters to farmers on tractors.

Also worth seeing at the fair: the tractor pull, oddest-shaped vegetable, best barley, most beautifully decorated pancake, and of course, the top cow.

This year, my old roomie Steph and I watched a handful of (we thought identical) three-year-old jersey cows walk around in circles and compete for a shiny red ribbon. A dairy farmer sitting next to us explained that judges look for cows with veiny udders and great “angularity” – that means bony.

But what I love most about the fair is that basically every living person originally from Elmvale comes to town, plus several extras like me. We could probably have sold parking spots in our driveway.

This really is a whole other world. My personal Oz.

The eighth oddest shaped vegetable in Elmvale

These cows are for eating, but at the fall fair, they are treated like queens.

These cows are for eating, but at the fall fair, they are treated like queens.

Off her rocker.

Off her rocker.

Mini princesses at the parade.

Mini princesses at the parade.

Elmvale is...

Rural Elmvale is… where we come back

Rural life.

Rural life.

Steph at the top of the ferris wheel

Steph at the top of the ferris wheel

The last piece

I’m probably not supposed to virtually high five myself in my own blog, but I’ve got to hand it to me, I’ve been fairly practical through this transition.

With an exceptionally detailed to do list, I planned and prioritized the shit out of our move. I took an almost clinical approach to long-distance coaching JF on how to pack our apartment. I gathered amazing friends and family to help us renovate and settle. And through all of the job hunting muck, I stayed calm, reasonably organized, and moderately efficient.

Which is why I rather surprised myself today, when I traded my cell’s hard-fought 416 area code in for a no-questions-asked 705 model.  I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it was. As soon as I hung up with Koodo customer service, I felt a wooshing and sinking feeling in my belly.

I blame the new phone number. I don’t like the way it sounds. Too many fives or something.

Anyway, as I was driving home from work and pondering the wooshing, I realized this change was the last piece. The final vestige of my life in the city.

Tomorrow, I will toast the end of a process that took a lot out of me. Onward. Upward. And 705-ward.

Small Town Living

Living at mom’s isn’t half bad. As expected, she makes delicious food, folds my socks, and puts little pots of fresh lavender on my bedside table. The way she constantly keeps tabs on me is weird, but I’d forgotten how nice her house — with its comfy couches and vibrant art — is to be in.

I just had lunch on my mom's front porch. Lovely.

I just had lunch on my mom’s front porch. Lovely.

Beyond enjoying my mother’s slave labour, home, and company, living in Midland again is pretty great. My calendar is clearing up, my to do lists are shrinking, and I’ve spent a lot of time with family.

This morning, maman and I walked to Little Lake Park for a drop-in yoga class only to find the gazebo that usually houses Friday yoga totally devoid of activity. Google told me class had been moved to the Yoga House in Penetanguishene.

Little Lake Park, one of Midland's hubs.

Little Lake Park, one of Midland’s hubs.

We were about to walk home grumpy, when another misinformed yogi tapped us on the shoulder and asked if we knew whether class was cancelled. When we said it was moved she (a total stranger!) offered us a ride to the studio. And my mom (I repeat, total stranger!) said “sure” and hopped into the nice lady’s SUV. What could I do but follow?

The Toronto in me thought we might be driven down some dirt road, bound, gagged, and diced into fleshy bits, but it turns out our fellow lululemon-wearer was a friend of a friend. Of course.

When we got to class late, I was astounded when instead of scowling at us, people made room for us. And 90% of attendees looked at least vaguely familiar. The woman behind me was a former colleague at Discovery Harbour. The woman to my right was mom’s best friend. The woman two mats ahead of me had often shopped at Rub of the Green, the eccentric little boutique I worked in through high school.

A billion downward dogs later (ow!) I nabbed my old friend’s number then went out for coffee with mom and her buddies. At Grounded, we bumped into three more acquaintances. I smiled so much I think my dimples are now permanently etched into my cheeks.

It’s nice slash strange to feel so connected to the people and places around me again. That’s small town living for you.

Exercising Judgment

Long, long ago (about a month), my friend Michelle and I were going to morning gym classes twice a week. I would wake up at 5:30 a.m., be out the door by 5:50 a.m. and squeak into Body Pump for 6:30 a.m. — where Michelle, bless her, had already set up my weights and yoga mat.

After sweating, squatting, jumping, lifting and crunching for about an hour, I always felt fist-pumpingly triumphant. And towards the end of my gym career, I was looking trimmer and sleeping better.

 

Well, my GoodLife membership expired on June 20, and my body knows it. Just call me Jiggly Lefaive. So far the most strenuous exercise I’ve done since then is raise my remote control arm to change the channel. I’ve also undertaken such strenuous activities as walking to bakeries and lifting food to my mouth.

I’ve never exactly been a paragon of good health. I enjoy BBQ-flavoured chips, cookies and red wine. And even though I should be eating gluten free, most of my meals consist of something carby with cheese on top.

But here’s the thing. That’s not how I plan to live the rest of my life. A big part of what attracts us to country living is that we can stop at a neighbour’s place to buy fresh eggs and whatever veggies are in season. That and the non-availability of our two current dietary mainstays: C’est Bon Chinese Restaurant and Bhanjara Indian food.

We also love that there are dozens of reasons to be active outside. Simcoe County offers long trails for biking and amazing beaches for swimming. Wherever our house is, we’ll have access to two marshes, a Provincial Park and several forests.

JF and I like to go to Tiny Marsh, just north of Elmvale

JF and I like to use the trails at Tiny Marsh, north of Elmvale

So now that I am settled into my room at mom’s (five days and counting!) it’s time to get my shit together. My budget doesn’t want me to spend $50 monthly on a gym membership, so I’m going to do my best to use what Simcoe County has to offer to feel healthy again. Or my name will quickly devolve from Jiggly Lefaive to Flabby Lefaive.

My new friend Nytol

We recently gave our notice to our landlord. We must and will be out of our Toronto apartment for September 1, 2013. Which means we must and will either buy a house or rent a place in Simcoe County sometime this summer. Blimey. This is really happening.

Or is it?

A few months ago, thinking about houses at bedtime (silk curtains, granite countertops and hardwood floors… mmmmmm) would send me first into a pleasant haze, then straight to sleep. Now, thinking about houses at bedtime induces me to take Nytol — an effective drug recently added to my pharmaceutical lexicon.

We just can’t seem to agree on what house to buy. What I love, he doesn’t. What he loves is ugly. And after ten years of renting, we just don’t want to rent anymore.

Which is why I’m moving (temporarily, I hope) into my teenhood bedroom at my mom’s Midland house in a week. From that tiny “terracotta”-painted (i.e. poo brown) shrine to my youth, I can help with my sister Alicia’s engagement party, volunteer, job hunt, go to the beach, hang out with my avó, and drive around like a crazy person in search of “for rent” and “for sale by owner” signs. My amazing mother will feed me and do my laundry.

This is my mom's house. Beautiful, but can it hold three grown women?

This is my mom’s house. Beautiful, but can it hold three grown women?

Mom, I love you. Thank you for being a regular reader of this blog. But I’m a bit scared of living with you and Geneviève. Three women, one bathroom. Plus it’s been ten years since I lived with a parent.

I started packing today and it’s harder than I thought. Just how many bags does one need for an indefinite stay in a small, storagely-challenged room?

I say indefinite stay, but there is a ray of hope in the vast gloom of this house hunt. JF and I recently set a drop dead date. On July 22, we will either make an offer on this house in Coldwater (which we both love — we would just prefer Elmvale) or choose a house to rent.

House in Coldwater that we both love. If only it was in Elmvale.

House in Coldwater that we both love. If only it was in Elmvale.

We’ve committed. Crossed our hearts. Pinky swore. But whether we will actually be able to make a decision on July 22 remains to be seen.

What I know for sure is that for the next few months, I will have a foot in both worlds. JF will be working away in Toronto while I try to start building our new life in Simcoe County.