In A Pickle  

Hard decisions made in the face of an oncoming wildfire

To flee or not to flee?

I was terrified, feeling like a sitting duck when the authorities shut down the highways.

On Aug. 18, we stayed glued to CBC radio, listening for updates and instructions, all-the-while taking turns looking at the surreal scene of a flaming sky. The fire was close, only a mile away, and ashes landed on our doorstep.

A retired firefighter told us to remove any welcome mats by the doors and our patio furniture, as those items would block the exits if ignited. Good advice, as the embers may have set those things ablaze.

A wildfire can spread 10 miles per hour or more, depending on the wind conditions and type of fuel it’s burning. The Glenmore landfill was on fire, and it spewed toxic smoke into the air, adding to the danger.

On the Saturday morning, I learned one of our relatives and her firefighter boyfriend lost their house. She was distraught and her partner had to carry on, working some 36 hours straight. She worried for him and mourned their loss. The home they recently shared was now rubble.

The resident firefighters' dedication to the community was admirable. They fought to save other people’s homes as 13 of their own places burned. It's difficult for me to fathom the horror they and others faced with nothing left. Some Kelownians had no insurance and fled only in the clothes they wore.

I could barely hold it together. The idea of breaching the barricades crossed my mind. While a few people actually did so. The front-line workers endured verbal abuse while performing their duties and some equipment went missing. The reprehensible act of thievery floored me, and if caught, I think they should do life in prison for their malicious behaviour. People's true nature comes out in catastrophes like this.

During the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre “Twin Towers” in New York City in 2001, an employee announced on the PA system her coworkers could stay or go. Many people returned to their workstations and died. Similar situations happened in other calamities. Sometimes we should follow our instincts instead of waiting for orders or approval. I tried my best not to panic as I packed up crucial documents and photographs.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my sister, Pat Anderson, left her Sorrento residence for Calgary and stopped at a parking lot in Salmon Arm to sleep in her car. Her husband, Kent, and a former firefighter stayed briefly to set up sprinkler hoses around the area. It saved all the structures.

My response to the imminent danger was to run, but my husband remained calm. The fight or flight mode kicks in, depending on the type of goliath I’m facing. Thankfully, we’d made plans to leave on holiday long before the wildfire.

My husband and I, accompanied by a friend, left for a church camp meeting in the Cariboo on Aug. 20. We brought our camping gear in both vehicles, together with some evacuation supplies, keepsakes and important papers. The police stopped motorists from entering Kelowna, not exiting. Perfect timing to get away and forget our troubles.

We enjoyed several days of sunshine, mostly clear skies and refreshing rain. The international Christian speakers were inspirational, providing hope for a better future “as this world waxes old like a garment.” (Isaiah 51:6).

Many Christians view the world's climate change and disasters as labour pains for the planet. All these happenings will intensify, causing the inhabitants to witness a time of trouble that they have never experienced before. Christ's return will end this calamity. A new earth will be birthed.

(Revelation 1:7, Contemporary English Version)

“Look! He is coming with the clouds. Everyone will see him, even the ones who stuck a sword through him. Everyone on earth will weep because of him.” Yes, it will happen! Amen.

I joyfully expect His return. How about you?

If you’d like to share your experience with me, please write to me at [email protected]

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

It's woman v. worms in battle for the tomato plant

Battle for the tomato plant

The puny monster hissed a warning, lunged at me and spat green goo.

That would teach me for nudging it with plastic tongs. It had been playing dead on the kitchen table where my hubby placed it. Don’t poke the bear, or in this case, the caterpillar!

I’ve never been a girly-girl. The 10-year-old in me came out to play.

“Wake up Goober, wake up,” I said, and boy did it ever. The repulsive critter reminded me of a mini version of The Slimer in Ghostbusters. But this was no Hollywood creation with ectoplasmic gunk. Thankfully, the creature wasn’t able to fly around like a deflating balloon and slime the wall while passing through it.

I didn’t know what kind of bug it was, but measured its length. I later discovered that the 7.62 cm long Martian was a Tomato Horn worm, and it had two wicked siblings lying in wait in our tomato plant.

They were expertly camouflaged in the leaves upon which they hung upside down, clinging to the vine with their prolegs. The triplets devoured the top of the bush so it wouldn’t grow any taller and chewed on several tomatoes.

The zombie creatures crawled out of the soil and gobbled up everything in their path. All the while, they grew in size and strength. I nicknamed them Goober, Gomer, and Goblinda.

Other hornworms would surface and destroy the plant if we didn't intervene. The Five Spotted Hawk Moth will burst forth from the cocoon and rise from the dirt, shedding its hornworm body.

Their mature selves are equally hideous, with a 12.5 cm wingspan. However, they become useful pollinators, preferring flowers that make them stoned.

Although we made sure this trio of tripping creepy crawlies would never become moths. I placed them on a tin-foil plate and used a watering can with a shower head to fill the bowl. It was the kindest way to euthanize them—a far better fate than being eaten alive by birds.

Gomer and Goober clung to the foliage, using it as a life preserver, and seemed to enjoy the refreshing rain.

Once Len shook them loose from the leaves, they splashed about, having a pool party, until Goober attacked Gomer without provocation. The pair twisted together and slashed with their horns and teeth. Green blood-coloured the water. Goober went for the jugular and was the victor. He pushed his opponent under the surface until Gomer drowned. Goober collapsed beside his dead brother after winning, but died from his serious injuries. Their pacifist sister, Goblinda, stayed out of the battle but succumbed seconds later.

The 30-second fight was intense and while it lasted the song for Rocky — Eye of the Tiger — played in my head.

After, we used soapy water to kill any remaining hornworms on the vegetation.

We waited until the next day to dispose of the triplets, just in case they held their breath like navy seals. The following morning I checked the sidewalk around the pot for little green corpses, but there weren’t any.

Tentatively, I reached into the shrubbery to pluck some cherry tomatoes from the vine. I was worried one might have survived the soapy treatment and would latch onto my hand and bite me.

Tomato worms are not dangerous after all. Their teeth and horns can’t puncture our thick hides, but they will wrap around a person’s finger, which would’ve given me a heart attack. As it was, my skin wouldn’t quit crawling for 24 hours.

Horn worms are one of the largest immature insects in the world and in North America there are 120 different species of them. Worldwide there are 1,200 types.

I should be cautious, in case an army of them arrives at my door seeking to avenge the blood of the three Gs.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Time for women to embrace their inner Amazon

Women fighting back

I served up a humiliating kick in the pants to a perverted middle-aged man.

It amazed me that my Kung Fu fighting skills awoke after a 15-year hiatus. The creep clenched my hand, muttering obscenities, and got a cheap thrill from the rough hand shake. Feeling angry and embarrassed, I told him to stop as I tried to pull away.

When that didn’t happen, I waited until his grip loosened, then I latched onto his wrist in praying mantis style. Now the tables had turned, I yanked him off balance and hoon-kicked him with the top of my right foot. I enjoyed watching his facial expression change from lecherous to fearful.

It felt disgusting, and I wanted to wash my leg with disinfectant. He scurried away, red-faced, into the crowd because a girl had whooped him. Doing my best Clint Eastwood impersonation, I growled, “You’d better run punk, run.”

There was only one witness to the altercation, a retired cop, who stood there with his mouth open. He was as shocked as I was with my slick ninja moves. The perv behaved properly with me afterwards, but had a history of harassing and preying on women. This confrontation happened when I was in my mid-40s.

In my 20s, I had taken Seven Stars Praying Mantis Kung Fu lessons for self-defence and stopped being victimized. While training, I was skeptical, as I was a puny 110-pound female after all. Despite that, I pinned a muscular fifth-level black belt instructor against the wall with his arm bent behind his back. The guy was in his prime. At that moment, I realized this stuff really works.

After being dominated by my ex and some older brothers, I was done. And I wanted to even the score. "Embarking on a revenge journey? Dig two graves," said Confucius. Nonetheless, I would no longer turn the other cheek. I had taken too many beatings from them.

Unexpectedly, I felt at peace because I could protect myself, and I didn't need to use my newly found skills. Had I used those combat moves on the ex, I would have done time in the big house, where some female convicts end up. Sometimes they kill in self-defence, or they just snap from stress, substance abuse, jealousy or rage. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. What would now be criminal behaviour, was once acceptable. All is fair in love and war.

Female warriors have existed for thousands of years. Japanese warriors (Kunoichi) were the first of their kind and the most dangerous. Legend has it the expert female assassins came about in 1561; starting with a widow named Mochizuki Chiyome. Takeda Shingen enlisted the woman because of her ninja fighting skills.

She recruited and instructed about three hundred orphaned girls and prostitutes. Outwardly, she appeared to be a motherly figure. However, Chiyome secretly taught them how to seduce, spy, and slaughter. Those femmes fatales infiltrated royal courts, posing as actresses and geisha. Others came under the guise of priestesses, servants, mistresses and concubines. Captivated by their beauty, the drunken emperors caught on too late. The Kunoichi eliminated the males either with their poison tipped painted metal claws or with a boomerang style Kitana (war fan). It had razor-sharp edges made of steel. An elaborately embroidered silk cloth camouflaged it. Stealth and surprise were the modus operandi of those deadly ladies.

Female ninjas weren’t the only warriors to exist amongst the gentler sex. We originally thought of Amazonian women as a figment of Greek mythology.

Artists of long ago painted scenes of Greek heroes battling Amazons on pottery and jewelry. However, it got real in 1990 when a joint-American Russian archaeology team found a 2000-year-old grave site near the Kazakhstan border.

The spot was filled with the skeletal remains of warrior women and located right where Greek stories placed those Amazons. They buried many female corpses with weapons, including metal daggers and archery equipment. The relics had arrow tips embedded in their chest cavities. One such female cadaver showed she was bow-legged from horseback riding and had the same weaponry on her.

Those tribal women had to fight alongside their men in order to survive and protect their children.

Oh, the complexities of womanhood! With one hand we can calm a crying baby and with the other fling a boomerang-style steel fan.

Isn’t it time we embrace our inner Amazon?

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Whenever a baby is born, so is a grandmother

Grandmother awakening

With great anticipation, we drove to Alberta to meet our new grandsons. Both our daughters from previous marriages gave birth nine days apart.

Being an eight-hour drive, Len and I stopped off at Radium for the night. Unbeknownst to us we were in for an unpleasant surprise by booking a motel room where we’d stayed before.

When we arrived after dark, two sketchy looking men smoking a bong greeted us. I shuddered to think what was in the glass pipe they shared. Was it crack cocaine or crystal meth? Regardless, it wasn’t good.

One guy said we needed to register at the nearby hotel chain, as it had bought this establishment out, and then we could come back. As the man spoke, his unkempt buddy wouldn’t make eye contact. I had a bad feeling, sensing we should run for our lives. As nonchalantly as I could feign, I mustered up the courage to speak.

“Thank you for the information,” I squeaked out.

It was all I could do not to scream, “Start the car, Len! Start the car!” As we peeled out of the parking lot, I noticed someone standing in the darkened office window. The street lights showed her silhouette. I wondered if they’d be lying in wait for us when we returned. If we stayed, I wouldn’t sleep a wink. The place was deserted except for those three creepy people.

Movie scenes from The Shining danced in my head as we drove up to the other inn.

“Humph, we just dodged that bullet”, I said emphatically.

To make matters worse, the front desk clerk couldn't find our reservation. The flustered man soon realized he'd booked us into this lodge. It was more expensive, but we jumped at the chance. I wasn't returning to that seedy motel, no matter what. We were grateful to have a safe place to stay.

The next morning, headed to Alberta, we stopped to photograph elk, mountain sheep, and a waterfall. Despite the temptation to take the wheel from Len and drive like a maniac, I managed to control myself in order to arrive in one piece to meet my first biological grandchild.

When we finally got there, my son-in-law asked if I wanted to hold the baby.

“Oh, absolutely!” was my response. It was wonderful to make the acquaintance of the little fellow. Like his mother, he was also born 10 days late. He was perfect and it was such an honour I thought I’d never have.

Thankfully, I hadn’t forgotten the fundamentals of caring for a newborn, as the last time I cradled his Mom was 37 years earlier. Mother and (grand)son arrived at the same hour, 5:30 a.m.and were only one ounce difference in weight.

There were so many similarities. While cuddling the wee one, I noticed he’d turn his head to follow his mom’s movements. There was such a strong bond between them. The infant had a doting father, too. He was gentle and soft-spoken with his little boy and attentive to his wife's needs as well. It was very touching to see.

Grandpa Len remarked a few months earlier that he noticed I’d experienced some kind of awakening when I found out I was going to be a grandmother. Something changed inside me. It was all so surreal when the baby finally arrived.

Prior to that, I had little interest in children as mine had long since flown the coop and this old hen didn’t make a fuss over other people's little chicks.

After a short interval, we were off to meet Len's newest grandchild. He was a sweetheart, and so was his two-year-old big brother. Len was a radiant grandpa and we cherished the experience. However, their baby developed some medical complications, so we ended up staying only for a short while so they could deal with that.

Although we were unfamiliar to their toddler, he still gave us a warm hug and a kiss goodbye. It was touching to be accepted as his grandma too.

After spending a week with my family, Len thought he’d have to pry my fingers off the house's door frame and carry me away kicking and screaming to the vehicle. It wasn’t that dramatic, but with heavy hearts we left our loved ones behind and headed back to the grind.

It turns out grandmotherhood does change a person. It is a rite of passage unlike anything I have ever known.

I wasn’t a typical mom, pulling up to my kids’ elementary school with the windows down on my 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix and AC/DC blasting on the stereo, embarrassing my daughter. Although times have changed and I’ve mellowed considerably I’m still a nonconformist.

Time will tell what this granny will do.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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