Tag Archives: Childhood Stories

How Winter Has Changed Over My Lifetime

Lately, I’ve been thinking about climate change and how the expectations of what winter, or any other season, will be like in the average year are changing.

The official graphs and charts that show how rapidly the average temperatures are climbing from one decade to the next are obviously quite important, but I think there’s something to be said for listening to and writing down anecdotes about the climate as well. Future generations might like to know what things were like when we were young and the Earth was colder.

My first clear memories of winter happened in the early 1990s. My family lived in Wyoming then, and our town was nestled so close to the Rocky Mountains that we regularly saw heavy snowstorms between the months of October and May.

I think my family was snowed in at least once during these storms. There is only so much plowing that can be done before the blizzard wins and everyone needs to stay off those slippery roads for safety reasons.

Before I tell this next story, keep in mind that I was always petite for my age growing up. Not every child would have been light enough to pull this off, but I do have memories of walking on top of frozen snowbanks when I was about seven or eight years old. The snow had melted a little, and when it refroze it created a sort of crust on top of it that I could just barely walk on top of. I felt like a superhero and was a little disappointed the next winter when I realized that I was too heavy to do that trick again. (The funny thing was, I remained one of smallest kids in my class all the way through to high school graduation!)

In the mid-1990s, my family moved back to Ohio. Every year we’d generally have at least a few days cancelled due to snow or ice storms. Ohio was a less snowy place than Wyoming, so I don’t remember quite as many times when the roads were closed due to storms as they did when we lived out west.

I do remember feeling a little surprised by the lessening amounts of snow as the years rolled on. Part of it was almost certainly due to the fact that I was growing into my full adult height and viewing snowdrifts from that perspective instead of the point of view of a young child, but I also wonder if I wasn’t noticing the effects of climate change.

The winter of 1998-1999 was an exception to that trend. We had a huge snowstorm at the tail end of Christmas break that delayed the reopening of school by about two weeks. My family just so happened to be moving into a new house then, so my first recollections of 1999 were of perpetually-damp boots, gloves, and hats drying by the radiator while we unpacked our belongings one minivan full of them at a time.

I moved to Toronto in 2005. The climate was fairly similar to Ohio, but I’ve noticed winters seem to be morphing into drier and more erratic versions of themselves here over time. We still have some snowstorms, but we’ve also had weird weeks in the dead of January or February where the temperatures climb into early spring numbers (10-15C, or roughly 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit for you Americans) for a day or even a week before growing cold again.

This is truly bizarre, and I wonder if it will become the new normal for future generations. Will they no longer need heavy winter jackets, gloves, hats, and scarves? How will they react to the thought of a winter that doesn’t thaw out again until March? I suspect they won’t understand that concept at all, except as an academic exercise when they read about what life was like before climate change.

I’m interested in hearing your stories about how winter has changed and is changing where you live. If you live in a climate that doesn’t have winter, feel free to talk about how the weather is changing in whatever ways you might have noticed since you were a kid.

How to Celebrate Canada Day Like a Canadian

Today’s post is a little off the beaten path, but I do occasionally enjoy sharing snippets of my life that aren’t related to writing, science fiction, fitness, or mindfulness.

As I discussed in Things Nobody Tells You About Moving to Canada, I’m an immigrant. I was born and grew up in the United States. When I was in my early 20s, I moved to Canada and have called it home ever since.

Don’t tell the Canadians this, but these two countries were so similar that I didn’t experience the kind of culture shock that some immigrants go through when they move to a place that is nothing at all like him. Part of that is due to the fact that Caucasian immigrants are given social privileges that immigrants from other parts of the world don’t get, of course, but part of it is also due to the fact that the U.S. and Canada share a lot in common in general.*

*(Although, if anyone is curious, I might have to write a post about the differences between these two nations one of these days.)

Canadians and Americans generally both speak English. With the exception of a few quirky words like chesterfield and toque, we normally understand each other’s dialects without any issues at all.

The U.S. and Canada have remarkably similar etiquette rules and social customs. It was rare for me to accidentally step on someone’s toes when I first moved to Toronto and began adjusting to the cultural differences that I did notice here.

People in both countries tend to have access to similar sorts of foods throughout the year. While there are a few special foods in each nation that I can’t find when I cross the border, all of the staples in my diet can be found anywhere I might roam in Canada or the U.S.

The weather wasn’t much of a change, either, since Ohio and Toronto are so close to one another geographically speaking. I didn’t have to suddenly trade my entire wardrobe in for one meant for a much hotter (or colder) climate.

With that being said, there was one thing about moving to Canada that surprises me to this day.

You see, I grew up in a very patriotic country. I routinely saw American flags decorating people’s cars, homes, shoes, tattoos, toys,  t-shirts, and assorted foods among many other items.

When the Fourth of July rolled around every summer, many of the people my family knew threw huge barbecues or other backyard parties to celebrate it. Sometimes we might have even attended more than one of them on that long weekend some years due to my father’s prominent role in the community as a minister.

There were always fireworks, both the legal kind that were set off by the city and the semi-legal to illegal types that people sneakily ignited in their backyards off and on during the first week of July. At any other time of the year, I’d assume that a loud popping noise was a car backfiring or, much less likely, gunshots going off. During the week we celebrated Independence Day*,  it was fireworks without a doubt.

*Yes, non-American readers, it’s just as contradictory as it sounds. I have no idea how what should have been a one-day celebration ended up being spread so far, but it did.

The way Americans talked about their country was different as well. I’d often hear people say that we lived in the best place on Earth and that we didn’t know how lucky we were to have all of the freedoms we enjoyed. This wasn’t even necessarily done to be boastful. It was closer to a matter-of-fact response to the thought of our country turning another year older. There was a sense of pride in their voices and body language that couldn’t be ignored. Everyone presumed to know that this was the truth.

It was all such an ordinary part of life that I honestly didn’t think about it twice. I assumed that every country had a similar holiday they seemed to relish just as much as our own.

Patriotism, Canadian Style

Due to these early life experiences, I looked forward to Canada Day earnestly when I first moved up here. It occurred so closely to the Fourth of July that I couldn’t wait to take notes and find out which traditions, if any, might be different between my birth and chosen countries.

Imagine my surprise, then, when the Canadians around me didn’t seem to be all that fussed over Canada Day as the first of July crept closer and closer.

Oh, there were a few advertisements in the local grocery store for barbecue-friendly meal ideas. The Canadians I’d met seemed to be happy to have a day off from work and school as well.

But they weren’t exuberant, and the Canadian flag wasn’t plastered on everything you could possibly imagine and a few things you maybe couldn’t.

Their patriotism was subdued at best.

Nobody wore a Canadian flag bikini from what I could see (although I’d still totally wear one if I ever find such a thing. Be warned, Canadian kin! I’m still a shameless American when it comes to silly stuff like this.)

Nobody decorated the outside of their homes in large swaths of red and white to celebrate this special day.

Nobody swore up and down that Canada was the best country on Earth either. If anything, Canadians seem to be a little bashful on this topic. It can be hard to get them to understand just how lucky we are to live in a society whose safety net is so much more secure than it is south of the border. By no means is my adoptive country perfect, but a part of me is always amazed to see a doctor when I need to without worrying over how much they’ll charge me for the treatments I might need.

The handful of Canada Day barbecues I’ve attended have been much more about the food than about taking pride in one’s country.

This is a quiet way to observe the founding of Canada. While it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when I moved up here, I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of it all.

If you celebrate Canada Day, what do you do for it?

Classic Fantasy Films I’ve Never Seen

Last week I listed many of the classic science fiction films I’ve never seen. This week I’ll be sharing the fantasy films I’ve never seen.

When I was a little girl, my siblings and I weren’t allowed to read or watch most things that had to do with ghosts, witches, or magic. (C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series was one of the exceptions to this).

This rule was created for religious reasons, and our parents eventually changed their minds on that topic.  I’m just glad that they realized that stories about magic aren’t actually harmful before the Harry Potter series came out!

Generally, I’m more interested in the science fiction genre than I am fantasy, so I haven’t felt the urge to watch as many of the old fantasy flicks as I did the scifi ones. Maybe someday I will go through this list and check it out after I’ve finished my current to-watch list, though.

It’s always kind of funny when someone makes a reference to a well-known fantasy tale and I have no earthly idea what they’re talking about. This is even more true when they’re about the same age as me and assume that everyone grew up watching that stuff.

Just like I did last week, I’ll be including the year a film was published if I know that story has since been retold.

  • TIme Bandits
  • Lost Horizon
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Orlando
  • The NeverEnding Story
  • Big
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Willow
  • Princess Mononoke
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • Highlander
  • The Secret of Nimh
  • Ladyhawke
  • The Holy Mountain
  • The Fall
  • Clash of the Titans
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • Wings of Desire
  • Excalibur (1981)
  • My Neighbour Toto
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Spirited Away
  • King Kong
  • Jack the Giant Slayer
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • The Witches of Eastwick
  • Hook
  • The City of Lost Children
  • The Frighteners
  • Life of Brian (and most other Monty Python films!)
  • Life of Pi

What classic fantasy films have you never seen? Were you allowed to read and watch stories that referenced magic when you were a kid? I know my childhood was a little out of the ordinary in certain ways, so I try not to assume that everyone has had the same experiences in life.

Classic Science Fiction Films I’ve Never Seen

When I was a kid, my family didn’t own a television at all for a few years there. There were other parts of my childhood when we owned a TV but didn’t have cable. The handful of channels that we could watch for free during those years almost never had science fiction reruns or content of any kind, although I did eagerly watch it whenever I could find it.

We also rarely went to the movie theatre until I was well into my teens, so I hadn’t seen a lot of well-known films in general by the time I grew up.

I’ve caught up on many of the science fiction classics since then, but there are still quite a few of them that I haven’t gotten around to checking out yet.

Today I’m going to be listing as many of the ones I haven’t seen as I can think of. Some of them have since been remade, so I’m including the year they came originally came out if there’s a newer version of it that I recognized. Often there are so many changes from the original to the remake that it’s almost as though we’re talking about two separate franchises.

Next week, I’ll be publishing a similar post about fantasy films. The lists for both categories were so long that I thought they each deserved their own post.

Will I ever watch the shows on this list? I have no idea! My current to-watch list is so long that for now I’m going to continue focusing on more modern films, but it might be fun to catch up on the old ones someday as well.

  • The Thing
  • Westworld (1973)
  • Robocop
  • The Abyss (1989)
  • Thx1138
  • Moon
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • Brazil
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • Mad Max
  • Solaris
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Forbidden Planet
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Metropolis (1927)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • King Kong (1933)
  • 2010
  • Fantasia
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Flash Gordon
  • Logan’s Run (1976)
  • Dune
  • Soylent Green
  • Stalker

I was going to add the Alien and Predator series to this list, too, but I can’t remember for sure if I’ve seen any of them or not. They’re so well-known in pop culture that I know their basic plots even though I don’t know which of the films in either of these series I’ve actually seen.

What classic science fiction films have you never seen? On a humorous note, which classic science fiction films can you not remember if you’ve watched but know a few things about anyway?

3 Embarrassing Things I’ve Learned From Books

Today I have three embarrassing stories to share with you.

Before I dive into them, let me explain a few things about my childhood to the new readers of my blog.

I grew up in a series of small towns and rural communities in the United States. I was also homeschooled for the first several years of my education. While the Internet has technically existed since before I was born, it wasn’t until I was older that it became at all well-known. In fact, I was in high school before my family finally bought a computer that could surf the web.(Based on how much I begged them to do this, I’m going to take the credit for it, too. LOL!)

My parents were lovingly protective of their children. There were certain facts of life – and, as I like to joke, a particular English sweet as well – that they shielded us from until we were old enough to fully understand them.

Sometimes People Get Pregnant Before They Get Married

The time: Early 1990s

I should warn my sensitive readers that this section of today’s post post contains two brief references to infant deaths.

My parents were married long before they conceived their kids. This was a pattern that was also repeated with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and the vast majority of the other adults in my community.

While I met some kids whose families didn’t fit that mold when I began attending public elementary school, my assumption about the world was still that this was a rare and very recent occurrence.

Due to all of these assumptions and previous experiences, I was endlessly confused by a line I read in a biography of Winston Churchill that gave a date for his parents’ wedding that was much less than nine months before his birth.

Shortly before I picked up this book, I’d read a Reader’s Digest article* about a premature baby who died despite many heroic efforts by her doctor and nurses to save her. My family knew at least one other family who had lost a baby this way.

Due to all of these facts, it didn’t make any sense to me that premature babies born in the 1980s and 1990s who had access to wonderful medical care would die while one who was born at a time when no one knew anything at all about keeping preemies alive would thrive in the 1870s.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time assuming that his parents had been unbelievably lucky and resourceful instead. There was even moment when I briefly wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Churchill had shared their amazing knowledge with their local doctor. Maybe he was the first doctor who ever began testing new theories on how to keep premature babies alive?

You really don’t want to know how long it took me to figure out that Winston Churchill was probably conceived months before his parents got married and not a micro-preemie at all.

*Yes, I literally read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I even read my mother’s nursing school textbooks!

The Meaning of Words Can Change Drastically Over Time

The time: Late 1990s

One year I decided to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Winter felt like it was never going to end, so I hoped I could pass the time by finally finding out what happened during Bilbo and Frodo’s adventures.

Suddenly, I began to notice references to “faggots” in these stories. Characters wandered into the woods to pick them up without any explanation of what was really going on there.

The first time it happened, I thought Tolkien was being vulgar, homophobic, and nonsensical. When I looked up that word in a dictionary, I was completely confused by the idea that such a hateful term was originally used as a unit of measure for wood.

As much as I enjoyed the storyline itself, I shuddered every time that word appeared again. Knowing that the author in no way meant it as a slur definitely helped, but I was still horrified by the thought of an innocent word being twisted into such a vile one over the centuries.

Turkish Delight Is Real

The time: The late 2000s

I briefly referred to this story a year and a half ago, but now it’s time to tell it in full.

The first time I read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, my mouth watered at the thought of Turkish Delight.

Like talking animals and lamp posts growing in the middle of a magical forest, I assumed it was yet another piece of this fictional world that I’d always wish could become real.

It was hard to picture what Turkish Delight really was. Edmund loved it so much he betrayed his siblings for it, so I imagined it was the most delicious candy that would or could ever exist.

Occasionally, I’d try to picture it over the years for the sheer joy of challenging my imagination. Sometimes it was some sort of dairy-free gourmet chocolate that I could eat. At other times I imagined contradictory combinations of treats that couldn’t possibly exist in our world. For example, the softness of cotton candy combined with the warmth of hot fudge might have tempted me into climbing into a strange woman’s sleigh as a kid if Narnia was capable of producing such a thing.

I grew up, moved far away from home, and got married. Turkish Delight occupied less and less of my speculations about the world until one day I spotted a box of it sitting on a perfectly ordinary candy store shelf.

“Wait, Turkish Delight is REAL?” I said in a voice that was slightly too loud for the occasion.

“Yes,” my spouse said.

“Since when?” I asked. Another film version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe had come out a few years before then, so I assumed that the producers of it had taken a look at all of the wildly successful Harry Potter candies and decided to make this treat a reality as well.

When my spouse explained that this wasn’t a new type of sweet and that it had existed back when C.S. Lewis first wrote this series, my brain practically exploded. Why hadn’t Turkish Delight become commonplace in North America since this series was released? Was it a common treat in England? Why was this the first I was hearing about it?

I still don’t have the answers to those questions, but I smile every time I see it for sale at the store. Maybe one of my British readers will have answers for me someday!

What is one funny, embarrassing thing you’ve learned from a book?